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
PREM19/1747 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): reform of CAP; Green Pound; agricultural land and rural employment) (Part 14) 1986 Apr 17 1986 Nov 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2137 Energy (North Sea oil prices; petrol prices; world oil market) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 4 1987 Feb 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2980 European Policy (Special European Council meeting, Dublin, April 1990; European Council meeting, Dublin, June 1990) (Part 36A) 1990 Feb 16 1990 Jul 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2981 European Policy (European Council meeting, Dublin, June 1990: briefing papers) 1990 Jun 19 1990 Jun 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3869 Oman (Internal situation: UK/Oman relations) (Part 3) 1989 Feb 1 1992 Oct 27 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/4869 Panama (UK/Panama relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1983 Nov 15 1994 May 13 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2726 Home Affairs (Sex discrimination) 1985 Aug 6 1989 Feb 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4023 Cabinet (Questions of Procedure for Ministers) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 14 1990 Dec 20 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2941 Economic Policy (Brandt Commission memorandum 'Common Crisis': 'Facing One World', report by an Independent Group on Financial Flows to Developing Countries) (Part 5) 1983 Jan 27 1990 Sep 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4489 Tuvalu (UK/Tuvalu relations: internal situation; includes visits of Tuvalu Prime Ministers, Mr Toaripi Lauti, Dr Tomasi Puapua, and Mr Bikenibeu Paeniu) 1980 Jul 9 1993 Dec 14 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2611 Defence (Arms control talks and the effect on nuclear weapons) (Part 15) 1988 Oct 3 1989 Jun 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2678 Food (Food safety) (Part 2) 1989 Apr 3 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2026 Broadcasting (Independent review of the radio frequency spectrum between 30 and 960 MHz: Merriman Report) 1982 Apr 26 1988 Jul 29 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3531 Security ​​​​​​​(Miscellaneous leaks and security breaches)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1989 Jan 10 1991 Apr 26 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/1684 Civil Service (Long term management and manpower policy: duties and responsibilities of civil servants; performance bonuses) (Part 19) 1986 May 2 1986 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30

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