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
PREM19/3203 United Nations (Visits to London of Poul Hartling, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (Dec 1980) and his successor Jean-Pierre Hocke (May 1989)) 1980 Sep 19 1990 Jul 6 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 103
PREM19/2890 USA (Visits to UK by President Bush, May-June 1989 and July 1991) (Part 4) 1989 Mar 28 1991 Aug 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3244 Commonwealth (Meetings with the Commonwealth Secretary-General) (Part 1) 1979 May 24 1991 Aug 28 2017 Jul 20 8 Secret 281
PREM19/3472 Parliament (Availability of Hansard: arrangements for the publication of Written Answers) 1980 Mar 3 1991 Oct 25 2017 Jul 20 Unclassified 87
PREM19/3042 Industrial Policy (Future of the Rover Group: National Audit Office report on the sale of the Rover Group) (Part 16) 1989 Jan 7 1990 Mar 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3300 Education (Payments to school and college governors: college governing bodies) 1980 Feb 13 1991 May 14 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 14
PREM19/3124 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Margaret Harrison, Director of Home-Start, 13 July 1990) 1990 Jul 6 1990 Sep 17 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 72
PREM19/3358 Government Hospitality ​​​​​​​(The standard of catering and service provided by the Government Hospitality Fund: recommendation that government hospitality be subject to a Rayner study​​​​​​​) 1979 Jul 5 1991 May 31 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 132
PREM19/3570 Tonga (UK/Tonga relations: centenary of Anglo-Tongan Treaty of Friendship) 1979 Nov 1 1991 Nov 6 2017 Jul 20 Unclassified 24
PREM19/2766 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 15) 1989 Oct 2 1989 Dec 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3202 United Nations (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO): General Conference in Belgrade, Sep-Oct 1980; UK withdrawal from UNESCO) 1980 Oct 16 1990 Mar 30 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 101
PREM19/3403 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish Summits; Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 21) 1990 Apr 6 1991 Jul 30 2017 Jul 20 4 Secret 395
PREM19/2882 Trade (Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD): review of the status of the ECGD) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 9 1989 Nov 23 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3243 Commonwealth (High level review of the role of the Commonwealth: dates for Heads of Government meeting) 1990 Jun 5 1991 Aug 20 2017 Jul 20 3 Confidential 386
PREM19/3471 Nigeria (Visits of Nigerian Foreign Ministers) 1980 May 16 1991 Apr 15 2017 Jul 20 2 Confidential 87

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