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
PREM19/1785 Home Affairs (Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on the proposed take-over of House of Fraser by Lonrho) (Part 2) 1986 Jan 15 1986 Dec 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2637 Economic Policy (The coinage. Note: With coins) 1980 Nov 20 1989 Sep 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1970 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 13) 1986 Aug 1 1986 Nov 28 2016 Feb 19 1
PREM19/4334 New Zealand (Internal situation: UK/New Zealand relations; relations with the European Community) (Part 2) 1988 Jul 1 1993 Sep 27 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2800 Police (Police pay) (Part 2) 1985 Mar 1 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4218 Home Affairs (Legislation on privacy and right of reply: The Calcutt Report) (Part 1) 1989 Jan 10 1993 Jan 22 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2569 USA (Visit to UK by President Reagan, June 1988) 1984 Jun 1 1988 Sep 23 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1910 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Norway, September 1986: administrative arrangements) 1985 Sep 16 1986 Oct 13 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2882 Trade (Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD): review of the status of the ECGD) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 9 1989 Nov 23 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1756 European Policy (European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR): impact of European Court of Human Rights findings on UK domestic law) (Part 1) 1980 Nov 12 1986 May 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4477 Transport (East London river crossing) 1984 May 1 1993 Jul 7 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2994 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visits to Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Switzerland, 16-23 September 1990) 1990 Aug 17 1990 Oct 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1846 Defence (Policing of demonstrations at military bases: activities of anti-nuclear demonstrators) (Part 1) 1983 Feb 17 1986 Mar 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2742 Industrial Policy (Policy towards employee involvement: profit sharing and share options) 1979 Sep 25 1989 Oct 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2113 Education (Department of Education and Science (DES) draft circular 'Providing for Quality: the Pattern of Organisation to Age 19': proposed consultation) 1986 Jun 30 1986 Jul 21 2016 Feb 19

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