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
PREM19/2463 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
PREM19/2448 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to NATO, February 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Sep 25 1988 Feb 22 2016 Jul 21 2 Confidential 53
PREM19/2186 Government Buildings (The Albert Memorial) 1987 Sep 28 1987 Dec 2 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 18
PREM19/2544 Soviet Union (Visit to UK by Dr Anatoly Koryagin: meeting with Prime Minister; abuse of psychiatry in USSR) 1987 Sep 29 1987 Nov 4 2016 Dec 30 Restricted 21
PREM19/2256 Industrial Policy (Future of the Rover Group) (Part 14) 1987 Oct 1 1988 Feb 29 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret Named Distribution Only 231
PREM19/2167 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 37) 1987 Oct 1 1987 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 280
PREM19/2150 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 18) 1987 Oct 1 1988 Mar 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2236 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 10) 1987 Oct 1 1988 Jan 29 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 269
PREM19/2435 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, and private visit to Dallas, October 1987: administrative arrangements) (Part 2) 1987 Oct 1 1987 Nov 18 2016 Jul 21 12 Secret 181
PREM19/2362 Nationalised Industries (Steel Industry: British Steel Corporation (BSC) privatisation) (Part 15) 1987 Oct 1 1988 Nov 23 2016 Jul 21 Secret 240
PREM19/2225 Home Affairs (Possible 'Festival of Britain' in 1991) 1987 Oct 2 1987 Oct 27 2016 Jul 21 Confidential and Personal 5
PREM19/2080 Economic Policy (Budget) (Part 17) 1987 Oct 2 1988 Mar 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2327 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 17) 1987 Oct 2 1988 Feb 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2651 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 11) 1987 Oct 2 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2727 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 20) 1987 Oct 2 1989 Feb 22 2016 Dec 30

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