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 Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/3564 Spain (Visits to the UK by Spanish Foreign Ministers) 1981 Aug 17 1991 May 8 2032 Jan 1
PREM19/4276 Jordan (Visits to London by King Hussein) (Part 5) 1989 Mar 5 1993 Jan 4 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1989 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail pay; industrial action by NUR and ASLEF; possible line closures; British Rail finances) (Part 8) 1984 Jan 20 1986 Jul 31 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2823 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Brussels for NATO Summit, December 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Nov 19 1989 Dec 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1916 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to France for Anglo-French Summit, Paris, November 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 May 7 1986 Nov 24 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/4617 Disasters (Whitehall responses to national disasters: inquiries into major incidents) (Part 1) 1985 Jun 24 1994 Dec 22 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3003 Germany (Internal situation in the Federal Republic of Germany) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 13 1990 Mar 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1860 National Health (Contraception for the under sixteens) 1980 Apr 30 1986 Feb 27 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/4068 Djibouti (UK/Djibouti relations) 1986 Aug 6 1993 Sep 19 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3644 Defence (Defence sales)​​​​​​​ (Part 13) 1990 Jul 1 1992 Dec 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3018 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; value for money seminars; Next Steps initiative) (Part 33) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Mar 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1732 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 8) 1986 Oct 10 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1862 National Health (Disposal of site of St George's Hospital, Hyde Park Corner: negotiations with Grosvenor Estate for sale of Crown portion) 1982 Jan 21 1986 Apr 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1601 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's visit to Lloyd's of London: note of meeting with chairman Peter Miller, February 1985) 1985 Jan 18 1985 Feb 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2108 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - Toronto: Prime Minister's Personal Representative for Economic Summits; briefing for second meeting of Personal Representatives ('Sherpas'), Quebec, February 1988) (Part 1) 1987 Oct 30 1988 Jan 28 2016 Jul 21

Pages