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.

 

File name Title Beginssort descending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/3058 Italy (Visits of the Italian Prime Minister: visits of the Italian President) (Part 3) 1986 Oct 3 1990 Oct 20 2017 Jul 20 6 Secret 316
PREM19/2695 Germany (Anglo-German relations) (Part 4) 1986 Oct 3 1989 Aug 30 2017 Jul 20 3 Secret 333
PREM19/3670 Economic Policy (Consultations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF): meetings with the IMF and World Bank) (Part 3) 1986 Oct 3 1992 Mar 12 2017 Dec 29 Secret 289
PREM19/2040 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy; financial management; multi-department review of budgeting; equal opportunities in employment) (Part 20) 1986 Oct 3 1987 Mar 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3343 France (Internal situation) (Part 3) 1986 Oct 7 1991 Nov 21 2017 Jul 20 5 Secret 445
PREM19/2556 Transport (British Rail fares: industrial action by the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR) and the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF); possible line closures; British Rail finances) 1986 Oct 9 1988 Sep 29 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1732 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 8) 1986 Oct 10 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4327 Nationalised Industries (Pay of Chairmen and Board members) (Part 4) 1986 Oct 13 1993 Dec 23 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2252 Industrial Policy (Research and development) (Part 3) 1986 Oct 13 1987 Mar 27 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 119
PREM19/2360 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding: Hill-Norton Committee Report on Hull Forms for Warships ('short fat ships')) (Part 2) 1986 Oct 14 1988 Jul 27 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3291 Economic Policy (Speeches by the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England) (Part 3) 1986 Oct 16 1991 Jul 2 2017 Jul 20 Unclassified 381
PREM19/2348 National Health (Reuse of redundant hospital sites in the Green Belt) 1986 Oct 19 1987 Apr 9 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 14
PREM19/1776 Government Machinery (The 70th anniversary of the Cabinet Office) 1986 Oct 21 1986 Dec 5 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2182 France (Prime Minister's visits to France, November 1986 and March and July 1987) (Part 5) 1986 Oct 21 1987 Oct 30 2016 Jul 21 Top Secret UK Eyes A 287
PREM19/3103 Nigeria (UK/Nigeria relations: internal situation) (Part 2) 1986 Oct 22 1990 Dec 10 2017 Jul 20 9 Secret 360

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