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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1674 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 40) 1985 May 2 1986 Jun 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2017 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 42) 1987 Sep 7 1988 Dec 29 2016 Dec 30 8 Secret UK Eyes A 229
PREM19/1673 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing - defence after repossession) (Part 14) 1984 Feb 21 1986 Jun 26 2014 Dec 30 8 Secret UK Eyes A 190
PREM19/2585 Argentina (UK/Argentina relations: Falkland Islands) (Part 43) 1989 Jan 2 1989 Dec 13 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2907 Arts and Amenities (Future of the Victoria and Albert and Science Museums: future of the Theatre Museum and Museum of Childhood; Nehru Gallery Appeal) 1982 Mar 1 1990 Aug 24 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2909 Arts and Amenities (Policy towards the arts: private sponsorship of the arts; Wilding Report 'Supporting the Arts') (Part 3) 1987 Jul 31 1990 Apr 10 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2587 Arts and Amenities (Preservation of the Rose Theatre) 1989 May 9 1989 Jun 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2018 Arts and Amenities (Prime Minister's meeting with Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza to discuss possible siting in UK of the Thyssen Collection) (Part 1) 1988 Feb 27 1988 May 30 2016 Dec 30 2 Confidential 283
PREM19/2586 Arts and Amenities (Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Sieff to discuss the possible acquisition of the Royal Dental Hospital site by the National Portrait Gallery: future of the National Portrait Gallery) 1986 Aug 26 1989 Apr 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3610 Arts and Amenities (​​​​​​​Policy towards the arts: private sponsorship of the arts) (Part 4) 1990 May 1 1992 Dec 22 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3611 Arts and Amenities ​​​​​​​(Charitable trust for works of art in the Palace of Westminster) 1990 Jun 28 1991 Mar 27 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2589 Australia (Visits to the UK by Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, State Premier of Queensland, and his successor Mike Ahern) 1979 Jul 9 1989 Mar 1 2016 Dec 30 2 Confidential 57
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
PREM19/3218 Australia ​​​​​​​(Visit of the Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, to London, June 1989)(Part 2) 1988 Aug 30 1991 May 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2911 Austria (UK/Austrian relations: internal situation; Waldheim Report) 1981 Dec 24 1990 May 31 2017 Jul 20

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