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 ascending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2400 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with a delegation of Muslim religious leaders, 28 April 1988) 1988 Jan 28 1988 Jun 7 2016 Jul 21 3 Restricted 80
PREM19/2401 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's international commitments) (Part 1) 1983 Dec 16 1988 May 5 2016 Jul 21 7 Personal and Confidential 226
PREM19/3890 Prime Minister (Prime Minister John Major's meetings with Margaret Thatcher​​​​​​​) 1990 Dec 26 1992 Feb 5 2017 Dec 29 Secret 19
PREM19/2429 Prime Minister (Possible defamation of the Prime Minister by the Radio 4 'Today' programme) 1988 Jan 18 1988 Jan 22 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 9
PREM19/2428 Prime Minister (Policy Unit briefing for Prime Minister: general topics) 1983 Mar 1 1987 Mar 4 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 252
PREM19/3892 Prime Minister (Demise of a Prime Minister in office) 1989 Jan 31 1992 Oct 27 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3891 Prime Minister (Briefing for new Prime Minister and spouse) 1990 Nov 1 1992 Feb 5 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2403 Prime Minister (Arab League Delegation visit to London: meeting with Prime Minister; supply of IR18 Thermal Imager to Syria) (Part 3) 1983 Apr 15 1988 Mar 15 2016 Jul 21 1 Confidential 115
PREM19/3146 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visit to Turkey, April 1990: administrative arrangements) 1989 Nov 23 1990 May 21 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3145 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visit to the second World Climate Conference, Geneva, November 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Oct 4 1990 Nov 26 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3143 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visit to the Conference on the Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) Summit in Paris, November 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Oct 17 1990 Nov 26 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3140 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visit to Paris, January 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Jan 8 1990 Jan 19 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3142 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visit to Paris to attend the Heads of Government dinner, November 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Nov 15 1990 Jan 10 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3139 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visit to New York to attend World Summit for Children and to receive UNIFEM award, September-October 1990: administrative arrangements) 1989 Oct 13 1990 Oct 15 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3138 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visit to Helsinki, August 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Oct 2 2017 Jul 20

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