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
PREM19/3749 European Policy (Prime Minister's meeting with Sir James Scott-Hopkins, leader of European Conservative Group in European Parliament: meetings with the European Democratic Group of MEPs) (Part 3) 1988 Feb 1 1992 Sep 21 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2163 European Policy (Prime Minister's meetings and correspondence with Sir James Scott-Hopkins, leader of European Democratic Group (EDG) in European Parliament: meetings with Conservative members of EDG) 1979 Jul 1 1987 Feb 11 2016 Jul 21 Confidential and Personal 242
PREM19/2144 European Policy (Prime Minister's opening of EUREKA Ministerial Conference, London, June 1986: European capability in new technology) 1986 Jan 7 1986 Jun 16 2016 Nov 7 2 Confidential 44
PREM19/2979 European Policy (Special European Council meeting in Rome, October 1990) (Part 37) 1989 Dec 18 1990 Nov 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2145 European Policy (UK nomination for European City of Culture, 1990: Glasgow nominated) 1986 Jun 10 1986 Oct 8 2016 Nov 7 Confidential 16
PREM19/2987 European Policy (Visit to the UK by Jose Maria de Areilza, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, February 1982: possible visit by Catherine Lalumiere, Secretary General of the Council of Europe) 1981 Jul 15 1990 Feb 7 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 43
PREM19/3754 European Policy (Visits to the UK by Jacques Delors, President of the European Commission)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1987 Jan 2 1992 Nov 16 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1753 European Policy (Visits to UK by Presidents of the European Commission, Gaston Thorn (March 1983 - June 1984) and Jacques Delors (May 1985 - February 1987): meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1983 Feb 15 1986 Dec 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3308 European Policy ​​​​​​​(European Community Budget: developments in the European Community)(Part 48) 1990 Nov 1 1991 Feb 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3314 European Policy ​​​​​​​(European Convention on Human Rights: Prime Minister's visit to Paris for Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) Summit, November 1990)(Part 3) 1989 Oct 4 1990 Dec 17 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3319 European Policy ​​​​​​​(European Council meeting, Luxembourg, June 1991)(Part 38A) 1990 Apr 27 1991 Jun 16 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3317 European Policy ​​​​​​​(European Council meeting, Maastricht, December 1991)(Part 39) 1990 Jan 18 1991 Nov 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3321 European Policy ​​​​​​​(European Council meeting, Rome, December 1990)(Part 38) 1990 Nov 8 1991 Apr 11 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3325 European Policy ​​​​​​​(European Monetary System (EMS): economic and monetary union)(Part 9) 1990 Nov 8 1991 Feb 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3328 European Policy ​​​​​​​(Setting up of European Bank for Reconstruction and Development)(Part 2) 1990 Oct 4 1991 Apr 11 2017 Dec 29

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