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
PREM19/2592 Broadcasting (Legislation on broadcasting; Channel 4; community radio) (Part 3) 1988 May 3 1989 Dec 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2596 Broadcasting (Prime Minister's seminar on broadcasting, 21 September 1987; follow-up action) (Part 2) 1987 Sep 22 1989 Aug 3 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 106
PREM19/2917 Broadcasting (Television licence fees: Broadcasting Bill) (Part 10) 1989 Nov 1 1990 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3225 Broadcasting ​​​​​​​(Party political broadcasting)(Part 3) 1986 Apr 9 1991 Sep 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2919 Cabinet (Cabinet Committee structure and membership) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 19 1990 Jul 20 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3227 Cabinet ​​​​​​​(Arrangements for Cabinet business)(Part 20) 1990 Sep 5 1991 Jan 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3226 Cabinet ​​​​​​​(Attendance at Cabinet meetings: invitees and absences)(Part 5) 1987 Jun 18 1991 Jul 19 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3230 Cabinet ​​​​​​​(Correspondence regarding photographs of the Cabinet and the Whips) 1979 May 10 1991 Mar 18 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3229 Cabinet ​​​​​​​(Forward look for Cabinet and Cabinet committee business)(Part 3) 1986 Jan 17 1991 Jan 23 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3624 Canada (Calls on the Prime Minister by the Premiers of Canadian Provinces) 1979 Aug 6 1992 Feb 7 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2034 Canada (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers, Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Brian Mulroney) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 2 1988 Mar 28 2016 Dec 30 1 Secret 294
PREM19/3623 Canada (​​​​​​​Prime Minister's visits to Canada, 25-28 September 1983 and 17-18 December 1992) 1983 Aug 31 1992 Dec 17 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3231 Canada ​​(Calls on the Prime Minister by Canadian High Commissioners; appointment of Canadian High Commissioners) 1979 Oct 19 1991 Sep 17 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3232 Cars ​​​​​​​(Use of the Government Car Service)(Part 2) 1989 Sep 5 1991 Dec 17 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3233 Cayman Island ​​​​​​​(Relations with UK: internal situation) 1988 Sep 14 1990 Dec 17 2017 Jul 20

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