Archive

Large scale document archive

MT's official files as Prime Minister, 1979-90

MT's official files as PM can be read on this site as they are released, in full and free to all - the confidential files originally stored at No.10, the core record of her premiership.

This is the first time in Britain - in fact as far as we can tell, in any country - that the declassified archive of a head of government has ever been published in full, paper or online.

The files have been copied at the British National Archives (TNA) at Kew in London and can be downloaded precisely as they appear in the reading room.

We are doing something more to help people make sense of this mass of information. The files are subject-based, logically enough, but that system makes it difficult to reconstruct the flow of paper across the Prime Minister’s desk at any point in time, depriving us of a sense of context and cross-winds, some of them overwhelming.

To combat this effect we are uploading a large selection of the most important documents from these files – thousands in total - to our powerful site database. You can search and sort by date, subject and other parameters, getting as close as anyone can now get to reconstructing the Prime Minister’s daily "Red Boxes", the rich diet of foreign and domestic policy papers submitted to her by the No.10 Private Office.

list & links to the PM's files

Secret no more

 

Below are links to the downloadable files in numerical order. The subject terms are those used in the original filing system. Files held back from release are listed in red.

An average file has around 200 pages.

You can read here an account of how filing worked at No.10, and the system for archiving MT's Prime Ministerial papers, both of which had their quirks.

Some of these downloads are very big, as large as 75MB, though most are in the range 1-10MB. To keep sizes down, images have been compressed, though legibility should never be a problem. High quality copies can also be supplied, where a need is established, on application to the site editor.

Where documents within a file have been selected for the site database, they can easily be viewed by clicking the link after the file name ("Selected PREM19/959"), as well as via conventional searches from the archive search screen. Over time most files will have had documents selected in this way, but it will take time and care is being taken not to allow the site database to become so large as to be unmanageable.

You can sort each column by clicking on its title in bold at the top, a powerful tool to find all the files on a particular subject over several years.

You can also search the list from the box on the right. The term "Public Spending", for example, will produce all the parts of the main file on that topic.

Chancellor of the Exchequer's Private Office files, 1979-89

1979-89: Chancellor's Private Office files [links to hundreds of digitised files from the Chancellorships of Sir Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson]

engagement diaries

An alternative way through the material is to read MT's engagement diaries, jumping day to day.

The engagement diaries link directly to relevant documents in the site database, so this is a good way to recover the perspective from the Red Box.

 

Link to full file File name Begins Ends Date of releasesort descending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2941 Economic Policy (Brandt Commission memorandum 'Common Crisis': 'Facing One World', report by an Independent Group on Financial Flows to Developing Countries) (Part 5) 1983 Jan 27 1990 Sep 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2678 Food (Food safety) (Part 2) 1989 Apr 3 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3147 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to the Soviet Union, June 1990: administrative arrangements) 1989 Oct 6 1990 Jun 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2876 Tanzania (Visits to the UK of President Julius Nyerere and President Ali Hassan Mwinyi) 1979 Aug 20 1989 Apr 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2627 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 43) 1989 Aug 2 1989 Dec 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2812 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Madrid for European Council meeting, June 1989: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jun 21 1989 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30 9 Confidential 76
PREM19/3040 Industrial Policy (Review of the arrangements for consultation with the construction industry: private investment in construction) 1980 Feb 14 1990 Oct 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2325 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 15) 1986 Jun 3 1987 Feb 23 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2526 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 16) 1988 Jun 2 1988 Aug 26 2017 Dec 29 8 Secret 289
PREM19/2181 France (Anglo-French relations: French disruption of UK lamb trade; Anglo-French nuclear defence cooperation; Prime Minister Michel Rocard's environmental initiative) (Part 4) 1986 Nov 3 1988 Nov 28 2017 Jan 30
PREM19/2921 China (Sino-Soviet relations: visits by Edward Heath MP) 1979 May 15 1990 Jan 15 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3492 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meetings with Robert Maxwell: death of Robert Maxwell) 1987 Nov 18 1991 Dec 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3090 Ministers ​​​​​​​(Presence of Ministers in the House of Commons) 1990 Apr 11 1990 Apr 18 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3331 Finland ​​​​​​​(UK/Finland relations: appointment of Prime Ministers; visits of President and Prime Ministers of Finland)(Part 1) 1979 Jun 1 1991 Dec 3 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2642 Economic Policy (Prime Minister's meetings with Dr Armand Hammer of Occidental Petroleum) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 29 1989 Dec 18 2017 Jul 20

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