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 classification Pagessort descending Link to selections
PREM19/3233 Cayman Island ​​​​​​​(Relations with UK: internal situation) 1988 Sep 14 1990 Dec 17 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3006 Germany (Visit to London by Count Otto Lambsdorff, Chairman of the FDP (Free Democrats), January 1990) 1979 May 17 1990 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2871 Soviet Union (Visit to the UK by General Dimitri Yazov, Soviet Defence Minister, July 1989) 1989 Jun 16 1989 Aug 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2058 Defence (Policy on biological and chemical weapons) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 1 1988 Dec 23 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1566 Malaysia (UK/Malaysia relations: visit to UK by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, March 1983; meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 28 1985 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30 4
PREM19/1230 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 26) 1984 Jul 7 1984 Jul 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3379 Home Affairs ​​​​​​​(Identity cards)(Part 1) 1988 Aug 1 1991 Mar 8 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2031 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; subscription television; independent television producers; Broadcasting White Paper) (Part 6) 1988 Jan 4 1988 Sep 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2700 Government Buildings (Purchase of government accommodation in the Whitehall area) 1983 Jul 23 1989 Sep 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2701 Government Machinery (Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development (ACARD)) (Part 5) 1987 Jan 2 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1829 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; release of UK hostages) (Part 4A) 1985 Feb 1 1986 Apr 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3519 Sao Tome and Principe ​​​​​​​(Relations with UK: internal situation)(Part 1) 1985 Oct 1 1991 Mar 19 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
PREM19/2546 Soviet Union (Visits to UK by President Gorbachev) (Part 2) 1988 Nov 10 1988 Dec 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1750 European Policy (European Community Budget: report on UK applications for European Regional Development Grants) (Part 33) 1984 Oct 1 1986 Sep 22 2014 Dec 30

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