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 Beginssort descending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2131 Education (Future of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA): opting out of ILEA by London boroughs; contingency plans for abolition) (Part 5) 1987 Aug 20 1988 Jun 23 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2647 Education (The Open College) 1987 Aug 21 1989 Mar 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2437 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Copenhagen, December 1987: administrative arrangements) 1987 Aug 28 1987 Dec 3 2016 Jul 21 10 Secret 68
PREM19/2317 Manpower (Special employment measures: the Employment Service) (Part 17) 1987 Sep 1 1987 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2268 Iraq (Internal situation: Iran-Iraq War) (Part 8) 1987 Sep 1 1987 Dec 18 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2525 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 15) 1987 Sep 2 1988 May 26 2016 Nov 7 14 Secret 408
PREM19/2687 Foreign Policy (Correspondence with and about George Soros: economic proposals concerning the Soviet Union and Poland) 1987 Sep 3 1989 Sep 8 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 108
PREM19/2017 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 42) 1987 Sep 7 1988 Dec 29 2016 Dec 30 8 Secret UK Eyes A 229
PREM19/2478 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget; national priorities for science and technology) (Part 6) 1987 Sep 7 1987 Dec 31 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 265
PREM19/2030 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; subscription television; independent television producers; external television broadcasting; broadcasting legislation) (Part 5) 1987 Sep 8 1987 Dec 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2802 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's term of office: Mrs Thatcher's 10th anniversary as Prime Minister) 1987 Sep 9 1989 May 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2260 Information and Publicity (Media coverage of Wiltshire arrests: Home Office guidance circular to journal editors on terrorist threat to VIPs) 1987 Sep 15 1987 Sep 16 2016 Jul 21 1 Confidential 5
PREM19/2596 Broadcasting (Prime Minister's seminar on broadcasting, 21 September 1987; follow-up action) (Part 2) 1987 Sep 22 1989 Aug 3 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 106
PREM19/3595 Economic Policy ​​​​​​​Public sector pay policy: Treasury monitoring reports (Part 14) 1987 Sep 22 1991 May 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2463 Regional Policy (Inner Cities Initiative: action following report by Eric Sorensen; Ministerial and departmental responsibility for coordination and presentation of policy towards inner cities; Kenneth Clarke, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to assume coordination responsibility; designation of further Urban Development Corporations (UDCs)) (Part 11) 1987 Sep 23 1987 Nov 10 2016 Jul 21 3 Confidential 306

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