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.

 

File name Title Begins Ends Date of releasesort descending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/3494 Prime Minister (Policy Unit briefing for PM: general topics) (Part 2) 1987 Apr 1 1991 Jan 29 2017 Jul 20 Secret 269
PREM19/3092 National Health ( Industrial action in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS workers pay (except nurses)) (Part 3) 1984 Mar 9 1990 Jan 29 2017 Jul 20 Secret 420
PREM19/3332 Food (Food safety) (Part 4) 1990 May 1 1991 Aug 9 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 116
PREM19/2666 European Policy (European Council meeting, Madrid, June 1989) (Part 33) 1989 Jun 23 1989 Jun 27 2017 Jul 20 Secret 348
PREM19/3141 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's possible visit to Paris to attend European Democratic Union (EDU) working dinner, February 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Feb 5 1990 Feb 15 2017 Jul 20 Secret 6
PREM19/3381 Home Affairs (Notting Hill Carnival) 1979 Aug 24 1991 Jul 22 2017 Jul 20 1 Unclassified 37
PREM19/3077 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 24) 1990 Aug 20 1990 Aug 23 2017 Jul 20 Top Secret 370
PREM19/2799 Poland (UK/Polish relations: internal situation; economic assistance) (Part 11) 1989 Sep 1 1989 Dec 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3219 Australia (Call on the Prime Minister by Bill Hayden, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, May 1984; meeting with John Howard, Leader of the Australian Opposition, July 1988) 1981 Jan 19 1991 Aug 14 2017 Jul 20 Secret 60
PREM19/3422 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 21) 1990 Nov 1 1990 Dec 29 2017 Jul 20 Secret 356
PREM19/2922 Civil Service (Dispersal policy: transfer of government work to the regions) (Part 4) 1988 Apr 5 1990 Feb 28 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 Confidential 31
PREM19/3091 Mozambique (Internal situation: aid programme; relations with the UK) 1979 Aug 2 1990 Mar 23 2017 Jul 20 8 Top Secret - Cab One 360
PREM19/3090 Ministers (Presence of Ministers in the House of Commons) 1990 Apr 11 1990 Apr 18 2017 Jul 20 Unclassified 6
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 1 Confidential 332

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