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
PREM19/2416 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Martin Feldstein, Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers in Washington, on 27 April 1984) 1984 Mar 14 1988 Jan 11 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 15
PREM19/2415 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Wilson, 8 July 1986: proposed China Trade and Cultural Centre in London Docklands) 1986 Jun 5 1987 Jul 13 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 60
PREM19/2412 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Chilver, 13 April 1988) 1988 Jan 20 1988 Apr 14 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 6
PREM19/2411 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Carrington, Lord Windlesham and Jacob Rothschild to discuss museum buildings, 23 October 1987) 1987 Jul 21 1987 Oct 23 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 28
PREM19/2410 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with John Browne MP, 21 October 1986: discussion of proposed M3 extension around Winchester. Note:Â With maps) 1981 Dec 7 1987 Apr 10 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 72
PREM19/2409 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with James Prior MP and Sir Peter Tapsell MP about East Coast sea defences, 1 July 1986. Note:Â With maps) 1986 May 30 1988 Jul 29 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 77
PREM19/2418 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Irina Ratushinskaya, 22 December 1986) 1986 Dec 19 1988 Jun 13 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 9
PREM19/2408 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Gordon Brown MP to discuss redundancies and closures in his constituency, 29 January 1987) 1984 Nov 16 1987 Feb 24 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 55
PREM19/2407 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Gerry Steinberg MP, 23 February 1988) 1987 Dec 14 1988 Mar 18 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 27
PREM19/2405 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Dennis Canavan MP, 17 December 1987) 1984 Sep 11 1988 Jan 11 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 62
PREM19/2803 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Basil Hersov, President of the South African Institute of Directors, February 1989) 1988 Jun 8 1989 Mar 1 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 20
PREM19/2402 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Allen Adams MP to discuss Babcock Power, 20 January 1987) 1986 Dec 23 1987 Jan 20 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 14
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

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