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 release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort ascending Pages
PREM19/2743 Industrial Policy (Industrial relations law: strikes in essential services; industrial disputes) (Part 15) 1989 May 23 1989 Aug 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2114 Education (Review of dental education; proposed closure of two dental schools) 1988 Jun 29 1988 Aug 9 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3468 Netherlands (Prime Minister's visits to the Netherlands, September 1983 and September 1991)(Part 1) 1983 Sep 1 1991 Sep 19 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/4053 Defence ( Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve Forces: report of the Review Body on Armed Forces; pay on Bounties for the Reserve Forces; mobilisation of Reserves; reinforcement plan) 1979 Jul 4 1993 Aug 5 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3039 Industrial Policy (Problems associated with UK dependence on imported minerals: stockpile of strategic materials) 1979 Aug 13 1990 Aug 22 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1725 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: city technology colleges; Education Bill; academic tenure; education reform; implications of removing responsibility for education from Local Education Authorities (LEAs); future of polytechnics) (Part 9) 1986 Oct 1 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1852 Ministers (Market and Opinion Research International Ltd (MORI): requests for Geoffrey Finsberg MP and Lord Young to participate in surveys on a range of issues affecting British industry) 1980 Jun 2 1986 Jul 16 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1593 Parliament (House of Commons procedure: election of Speaker; appointment of Departmental Select Committees; Government reply to Public Accounts Committee; rules on release of documents and disclosure of information to Select Committees) (Part 6) 1983 Apr 12 1985 May 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2100 Economic Policy (Policy on small firms; Local Enterprise Agencies) (Part 6) 1985 May 1 1987 Jan 2 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2953 Economic Policy (Venture capital) 1981 Jun 8 1990 May 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3939 Security (Operational file) 1990 Mar 15 1992 Sep 18 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/4848 Nepal (UK/Nepal relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1981 Jun 19 1994 Dec 21 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3183 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations) (Part 17) 1990 Jun 1 1990 Aug 31 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
PREM19/2040 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

Pages