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 ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3300 Education ​​​​​​​(Payments to school and college governors: college governing bodies) 1980 Feb 13 1991 May 14 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3527 Security ​​​​​​​(Extremist activity in Wales)​​​​​​​ (Part 1) 1980 Nov 1 1991 Oct 17 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/4051 Defence (Strategic food stockpile) 1979 Jun 20 1993 Feb 22 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2697 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the Turkish Prime Minister in Germany) (Part 7) 1987 Jul 1 1989 Feb 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2039 Civil Service (Dispersal) (Part 3) 1982 Sep 9 1988 Mar 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1344 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office; telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; Telecommunications Bill; draft licence for British Telecom (BT)) (Part 7) 1983 Apr 12 1984 Jan 11 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3185 Soviet Union (Possible visit to the UK by President Gorbachev in 1991) 1990 Oct 25 1990 Oct 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2363 Nationalised Industries (NATO Summits) (Part 1) 1982 Mar 3 1982 Jun 11 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3743 European Policy (Harmonisation of excise duties on alcohol: VAT rates in the EEC​​​​​​​) 1980 Oct 21 1992 Aug 14 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3124 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meeting with Margaret Harrison, Director of Home-Start, 13 July 1990) 1990 Jul 6 1990 Sep 17 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3078 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 25) 1990 Aug 24 1990 Aug 29 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/3358 Government Hospitality​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​(The standard of catering and service provided by the Government Hospitality Fund: recommendation that government hospitality be subject to a Rayner study​​​​​​​) 1979 Jul 5 1991 May 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2894 Vietnam (Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong; resettlement in the UK) (Part 4) 1981 Mar 3 1989 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2638 Economic Policy (VAT zero rates: infraction proceedings; European Court of Justice judgment) (Part 1) 1982 Feb 12 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1970 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 13) 1986 Aug 1 1986 Nov 28 2016 Feb 19 1

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