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
PREM19/1306 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 21) 1984 Jun 1 1984 Jul 31 2014 Jan 3 2
PREM19/3216 Agriculture ​​​​​​​(Agriculture expenditure: report on the review of agricultural training)(Part 3) 1987 Nov 20 1991 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1307 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 22) 1984 Aug 1 1984 Sep 27 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3214 Aerospace ​​​​​​​(Aerospace policy: future and structure of British Airways; merger of British Airways and British Caledonian; airports in the South East; British Aerospace (BAe))(Part 6) 1987 Jan 6 1991 Feb 18 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1654 USA (Economic situation in the United States) (Part 2) 1982 Oct 12 1985 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3040 Industrial Policy (Review of the arrangements for consultation with the construction industry: private investment in construction) 1980 Feb 14 1990 Oct 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1889 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's weekly diary meeting) 1979 May 21 1986 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2782 National Health (Outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Staffordshire: Stafford Hospital Inquiry) 1988 May 20 1989 Jul 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3418 Kuwait ​​​​​​​(Internal situation: relations with UK)(Part 1) 1980 Oct 6 1991 Jun 28 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1899 Prime Minister (Meeting with Terry Lewis MP about Walkden Workshops) 1986 Aug 18 1986 Sep 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3613 Bahrain (Visit to the UK by the Prime Minister of Bahrain, Shaikh Khalifa, September 1980) 1980 May 2 1992 Aug 20 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1400 Transport (British Rail: review of main line electrification; Hastings-Tonbridge rail service) 1980 Nov 13 1984 Jul 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2916 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite: satellite television; Sky Television) (Part 7) 1988 Jul 1 1990 Nov 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1749 European policy (European Community Budget: UK Presidency; policy after European court judgment on illegally set budget; protection of VAT ceiling and UK abatement) (Part 32) 1986 Oct 1 1986 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1275 Industrial policy (Abolition of government control over port development) 1984 Feb 29 1984 Apr 26 2014 Jan 3

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