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
PREM19/2614 Defence (Military uses of laser technology in space: United States Strategic Defence Initiative) (Part 5) 1987 Oct 2 1989 Jan 16 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2023 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; cable systems and their effect on broadcasting policy) (Part 6) 1986 Mar 6 1988 Jun 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3535 Security ​​​​​​​(Review of intelligence needs)​​​​​​​ 1980 Aug 3 1991 Oct 15 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/1681 Canada (Prime Minister's Visit to Canada, July 1986: Vancouver Transportation Exposition 1986 (Expo 86)) 1981 Jul 8 1986 Sep 12 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2399 Prime Minister (Proposal for a Margaret Thatcher Chair of International Relations) 1987 Oct 12 1988 Jun 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/4227 Hong Kong (Future of the Governor of Hong Kong) (Part 1) 1990 May 1 1993 Feb 2 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2033 Cameroon (UK/Cameroon relations) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 1 1988 Mar 25 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2867 Soviet Union (Visits to the UK by Soviet Deputy Prime Ministers: Leonid Konstandov, Vladimir Kamentsev and Aleksandra Biryukova) 1983 Sep 23 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1774 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste) (Part 21) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2622 Disasters (Railway accident at Clapham Junction, 12 December 1988) 1988 Dec 12 1989 Nov 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2791 Nigeria (Visit to UK by President Babangida, May 1989) (Part 2) 1989 Mar 8 1989 Jun 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3824 Ireland (Brian Nelson: public interest issues and protection of intelligence sources and methods​​​​​​​) 1990 Sep 1 1992 Dec 14 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/4669 Foreign Policy (The British Council) (Part 2) 1987 Aug 5 1994 Aug 22 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3037 India (Visit to the UK by Ramaswamy Venkataraman, President of India, April 1990) 1990 Feb 1 1990 Apr 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1885 Parliament (Boundary Commission reviews of Parliamentary constituencies in UK)(Part 1) 1981 Feb 19 1986 Feb 20 2016 Jul 21 2

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