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.

 

File name Titlesort ascending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/3246 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Security Conference, London, June 1991) 1990 Nov 13 1991 Jan 14 2017 Jul 20 1 Secret 8
PREM19/4040 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Parliamentary Association: annual conference) 1983 Jul 14 1993 Apr 16 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2607 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM), Kuala Lumpur, October 1989) (Part 15) 1989 Oct 1 1989 Oct 21 2016 Dec 30 2 Secret 322
PREM19/970 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Delhi, November 1983: policy) (Part 6) 1983 Nov 19 1983 Nov 26 2013 Aug 1 Secret 232
PREM19/969 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Delhi, November 1983: policy) (Part 5) 1983 Jul 25 1983 Nov 18 2013 Aug 1 5 Secret 352
PREM19/1688 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM), Nassau, Bahamas, October 1985) (Part 10) 1985 Oct 10 1986 Aug 4 2014 Dec 30 Secret 282
PREM19/2927 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, October 1989) (Part 16) 1989 Oct 1 1990 Oct 24 2017 Jul 20 3 Secret 310
PREM19/3237 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Harare, Zimbabwe, October 1991) (Part 17) 1990 Jun 7 1991 Oct 9 2017 Jul 20 9 Top Secret 255
PREM19/3245 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 1993 and the UK's bid to host it) 1989 Apr 3 1991 Jul 24 2017 Jul 20 1 Confidential 10
PREM19/3634 Colombia (Internal situation: UK/Colombia relations) (Part 1) 1982 Mar 1 1992 Sep 30 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/8 Civil Service (Stock Criticisms) 1979 Dec 31 1979 Dec 31 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 15
PREM19/3631 Civil Service (Rules on the acceptance of business appointments by civil servants following resignation or retirement) (Part 2) 1987 Jul 8 1991 Oct 17 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 109
PREM19/2603 Civil Service (Reimbursement of home to office travel; taxation of Civil Service allowances) 1983 Feb 10 1987 Apr 11 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2602 Civil Service (Proposed BBC TV series on the Civil Service: ITV and radio programmes on Whitehall) 1979 Jul 3 1989 Apr 27 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 63
PREM19/2924 Civil Service (Proposal by Anne Sloman and Hugo Young of Radio 4 for a radio series on the Treasury: proposed series by the BBC on 'Pillars of State') 1982 Nov 30 1990 Mar 23 2016 Dec 30 Unclassified 21

Pages

MT's official files as Prime Minister, 1979-90