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.

 

Link to full file File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1322 National health (Reforming the National Health Service (NHS); reorganisation: compensation terms) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 15 1984 Sep 27 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3189 Trade ​​​​​​​(Chambers of Commerce) 1989 Nov 16 1990 Feb 21 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1669 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 4) 1986 Jan 25 1986 Feb 28 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1991 Transport (Channel Fixed Link (Channel Tunnel); Euroroute) (Part 4) 1985 Jan 2 1986 Jan 31 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2823 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Brussels for NATO Summit, December 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Nov 19 1989 Dec 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3394 Industrial Policy ​​​​​​​(Industrial relations legislation: strikes in essential services; Green Paper 'Industrial Relations in the 1990s')(Part 16) 1989 Sep 6 1991 Nov 25 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1761 France (Internal situation) (Part 2) 1982 Feb 5 1986 Sep 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2583 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 7) 1987 Feb 2 1989 Jun 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1916 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to France for Anglo-French Summit, Paris, November 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 May 7 1986 Nov 24 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3597 Egypt ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meetings with the Egyptian Ambassador) 1980 Aug 2 1991 Sep 17 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3596 Education​​​​​​​ (Standards in higher education: Lindop Report on academic validation in public sector higher education; funding of higher education) 1984 Mar 29 1991 Oct 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2854 Senegal (UK/Senegal relations: visits to UK by President Diouf, February 1986 and November 1988) 1979 Oct 1 1989 Sep 18 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1291 Ireland (European Commission of Human Rights: case of Farrell v. UK) 1979 Nov 7 1984 Aug 1 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3234 China ​​​​​​​(UK/Chinese relations)(Part 5) 1987 May 22 1991 Feb 28 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3004 Germany (Prime Minister's meeting with Lothar de Maiziere, Prime Minister of the Germany Democratic Republic, June 1990) 1990 May 31 1990 Jun 27 2016 Dec 30

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