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 name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2597 China (Internal situation in China) (Part 1) 1979 May 30 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2003 VWindward Islands (UK/Windward Island relations) 1985 Jan 31 1985 Feb 15 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3541 Social Services ​​​​​​​(Statutory Sick Pay)​​​​​​​ (Part 2) 1981 Nov 1 1991 Feb 1 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3776 Government Machinery (Millennium Commission and Millennium Fund) (Part 1) 1985 May 30 1992 Dec 23 2017 Dec 29
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
PREM19/3014 Government Machinery (The Government's accountability for events under previous Administrations) 1990 Mar 12 1990 Mar 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1874 Nationalised Industries (Organisation of electricity supply industry: private electricity generation) 1979 Jul 18 1986 Aug 6 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2761 Local Government (Correspondence from Sir John Sainsbury on planning controls: general planning inquiries; proposed Planning Bill) (Part 6) 1989 Mar 1 1989 Aug 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4307 Ministers (Policy on passenger searching at airports as it affects Ministers) 1979 Aug 2 1991 Feb 25 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1936 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's meeting with industrialists and leading academics, February 1985; the Engineering and Technology Programme) 1985 Oct 28 1986 Mar 7 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3588 USA ​​​​​​​(Visit of William Casey, Director of Central Intelligence in Washington, and his successors)​​​​​​​ 1981 Feb 12 1991 Nov 25 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2814 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Frankfurt for the Anglo-German Summit, February 1989: administrative arrangements) 1988 Dec 19 1989 Mar 13 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1891 Prime Minister (Meeting with Dr An Wang, Chairman of Wang Laboratories, 7 October 1983) 1983 Aug 10 1986 Jan 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1606 Prime Minister (Radio profile of the Prime Minister by Hugo Young and Anne Sloman of BBC: discouragement of Civil Service participation) 1985 Jan 23 1985 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3829 Israel (Visits to the UK by Israeli Prime Ministers, Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin) (Part 2) 1990 Oct 1 1992 Dec 16 2017 Dec 29

Pages