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
PREM19/3055 Israel (Visits to UK by Menachem Begin, Israeli Prime Minister, and his successors Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres) (Part 1) 1979 May 6 1990 Jun 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3306 Environmental Affairs (Environmental pollution: climate change; Environment White Paper) (Part 18) 1990 Sep 14 1991 May 29 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 385
PREM19/2529 Soviet Union (Prime Minister's visit to Soviet Union, March-April 1987) (Part 1) 1987 Jan 5 1987 Mar 31 2017 Jul 20 4 Top Secret 603
PREM19/3126 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings and correspondence with Sir Hector Laing, Chairman of United Biscuits) 1980 Apr 1 1990 Mar 2 2017 Jul 20 Unclassified 75
PREM19/3367 Government Machinery (Forthcoming announcements and publications) (Part 5) 1989 Sep 1 1991 Jul 22 2017 Jul 20 Secret 255
PREM19/3571 Trade (Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD): review of the status of the ECGD; privatisation of Insurance Services Group)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1989 Dec 11 1990 Dec 27 2017 Jul 20 Confidenrtial 473
PREM19/2772 Manpower​​​​​​​ (Special employment measures: future of the Employment Service; Training and Enterprise Councils; Youth Training Scheme (YTS) review) (Part 21) 1989 Jan 6 1989 Jul 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3205 USA (Economic Situation) (Part 4) 1987 Apr 27 1990 Jan 30 2017 Jul 20 4 Secret 384
PREM19/3410 Italy (Visits by the Prime Minister to Rome: Anglo-Italian Summits in Italy) (Part 4) 1988 Mar 1 1991 Nov 28 2017 Jul 20 2 Secret 204
PREM19/2891 USA (UK/USA relations) (Part 6) 1987 Jul 2 1989 Mar 17 2017 Jul 20 3 Secret 391
PREM19/3245 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 1993 and the UK's bid to host it) 1989 Apr 3 1991 Jul 24 2017 Jul 20 1 Confidential 10
PREM19/3472 Parliament (Availability of Hansard: arrangements for the publication of Written Answers) 1980 Mar 3 1991 Oct 25 2017 Jul 20 Unclassified 87
PREM19/3055 Israel (The Prime Minister's meetings with Shimon Peres, leader of the Israeli Labour Party) 1980 May 5 1990 Nov 8 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3302 Elections (Election procedure) (Part 4) 1990 Sep 5 1991 Jan 30 2017 Jul 20 4 Secret 175
PREM19/3125 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Members of the Conservative Backbench Trade and Industry Committee, 16 January 1990) 1990 Jan 16 1990 Jan 16 2017 Jul 20 Restricted 4

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