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 Begins Ends Date of releasesort descending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/3142 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris to attend the Heads of Government dinner, November 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Nov 15 1990 Jan 10 2017 Jul 20 2 Confidential 18
PREM19/2806 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Robert Crandall, Chairman of American Airlines, 30 October 1989) 1989 Jun 30 1989 Nov 3 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2799 Poland (UK/Polish relations: internal situation; economic assistance) (Part 11) 1989 Sep 1 1989 Dec 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3219 Australia (Call on the Prime Minister by Bill Hayden, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, May 1984; meeting with John Howard, Leader of the Australian Opposition, July 1988) 1981 Jan 19 1991 Aug 14 2017 Jul 20 Secret 60
PREM19/2269 Iraq (Internal situation: Iran-Iraq War) (Part 9) 1988 Jan 1 1988 Dec 31 2017 Jul 20 8 Top Secret 473
PREM19/3429 Local Government (Relations between central and local government: local authority expenditure; Local Government Review; structure of local government) (Part 38) 1990 Mar 1 1991 Apr 24 2017 Jul 20 Secret 423
PREM19/2922 Civil Service (Dispersal policy: transfer of government work to the regions) (Part 4) 1988 Apr 5 1990 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3494 Prime Minister (Policy Unit briefing for PM: general topics) (Part 2) 1987 Apr 1 1991 Jan 29 2017 Jul 20 Secret 269
PREM19/3091 Mozambique (Internal situation: aid programme; relations with the UK) 1979 Aug 2 1990 Mar 23 2017 Jul 20 8 Top Secret - Cab One 360
PREM19/3332 Food (Food safety) (Part 4) 1990 May 1 1991 Aug 9 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 116
PREM19/3141 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's possible visit to Paris to attend European Democratic Union (EDU) working dinner, February 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Feb 5 1990 Feb 15 2017 Jul 20 Secret 6
PREM19/3382 Home Affairs (Probation Service pay: reorganisation of the Probation Service) 1979 Jun 5 1991 Jun 11 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 164
PREM19/1875 Nigeria (UK/Nigeria relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 16 1986 Oct 3 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2797 Philippines (Proposed state visit by President Marcos: possible visit of President Aquino) 1983 Feb 7 1989 Dec 13 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3218 Australia (Visit of the Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, to London, June 1989) (Part 2) 1988 Aug 30 1991 May 29 2017 Jul 20 3 Secret 196

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