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
PREM19/3102 NATO ​​​​​​​(NATO Summits) (Part 4) 1989 Nov 27 1990 Jun 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3101 NATO ​​​​​​​(NATO Policy) 1980 Jun 20 1990 Apr 25 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3100 NATO ​​​​​​​(NATO Ministerial meetings) 1979 May 31 1990 May 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3865 NATO (Visits to the UK by the Secretary General of NATO) 1979 Sep 27 1992 Jun 3 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2364 NATO (NATO Summits) (Part 2) 1987 Jul 30 1988 Nov 14 2016 Jul 21 Secret 278
PREM19/2365 NATO (NATO Summits) (Part 2) 1987 Jul 30 1988 Nov 14 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2788 NATO (NATO Summits) (Part 3) 1988 Dec 6 1989 Jun 9 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2784 Nationalised Industry (Gas and electricity pricing policy: privatisation of the electricity supply industry; nuclear power) (Part 17) 1989 Sep 7 1989 Dec 22 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3465 Nationalised Industries ​​​​​​​(Policy towards the nationalised industries: financial control)(Part 11) 1986 Jun 2 1991 Feb 8 2017 Jul 20 Secret 404
PREM19/2362 Nationalised Industries (Steel Industry: British Steel Corporation (BSC) privatisation) (Part 15) 1987 Oct 1 1988 Nov 23 2016 Jul 21 Secret 240
PREM19/2361 Nationalised Industries (Steel Industry: British Steel Corporation (BSC) privatisation) (Part 14) 1985 Sep 3 1987 Sep 25 2016 Jul 21 Secret 219
PREM19/3864 Nationalised Industries (Steel industry: British Steel closures at Ravenscraig and Clydesdale) (Part 16) 1988 Dec 2 1992 Dec 23 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1870 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 9) 1986 Feb 14 1986 Apr 30 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1869 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 8) 1985 Feb 4 1986 Jan 31 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2358 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 13) 1987 Oct 5 1988 Mar 31 2016 Nov 7 Secret 302

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