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 classification Pagessort ascending
PREM19/4007 Argentina (Defence of the Falkland Islands after repossession) (Part 15) 1986 Jul 4 1993 Dec 20 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2755 Legal Procedure (Restrictive practices in the legal profession: legal profession in Scotland) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 2 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1876 Norway (Prime Minister's visit to Norway, September 1986) 1982 Nov 16 1986 Oct 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3601 Foreign Policy​​​​​​​ (Summary notes on Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) Assessments) (Part 3) 1988 Jan 8 1989 Jul 27 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/1935 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's seminar and reception for industrial designers, January 1982)(Part 1) 1981 Oct 19 1985 Dec 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2624 Drugs (Drug misuse: international cooperation) (Part 4) 1987 Jun 25 1989 Nov 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1781 Government Machinery (Non-dePartmental public bodies (quangos): review programme) (Part 3) 1986 Aug 1 1986 Sep 9 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4347 Poland (Visits to the UK by General Jaruzelski, Prime Ministers Tadeusz Mazowiecki and Hanna Suchocka, and President Walesa) (Part 1) 1989 Mar 15 1993 Mar 4 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2487 Security (Correspondence with Gavin Strong MP concerning Archibald and Jane Williams) 1988 Feb 19 1988 Mar 15 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1022 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 21) 1983 Jun 20 1983 Oct 31 2019 Jan 1 Unknown
PREM19/4870 Papua New Guinea (Relations) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 21 1994 Dec 30 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3947 Security (Review of the use of vetting) 1979 Nov 21 1992 Sep 17 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2964 Environmental Affairs (North Sea Conference) 1984 Oct 31 1990 Jul 4 2016 Dec 30
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
PREM19/2779 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service: community care) (Part 22) 1989 Jul 5 1989 Oct 30 2016 Dec 30

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