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 classification Pagessort ascending Link to selections
PREM19/2094 Economic Policy (Government response to the Roskill Report on Fraud Trials: insider dealing; Take-over Panel review) (Part 3) 1986 Oct 1 1987 May 12 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1593 Parliament (House of Commons procedure: election of Speaker; appointment of Departmental Select Committees; Government reply to Public Accounts Committee; rules on release of documents and disclosure of information to Select Committees) (Part 6) 1983 Apr 12 1985 May 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1254 Government machinery (Social Security Commissioners: transfer of responsibility from Secretary of State for Social Services to Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Scotland) 1984 Oct 11 1984 Oct 23 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/583 Royal family (Form of memorial to Lord Mountbatten; erection of a statue) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 19 1981 May 29 Closed till 2022 Unknown
PREM19/3507 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visit to Washington, December 1990; administrative arrangements) 1990 Nov 27 1990 Dec 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2743 Industrial Policy (Industrial relations law: strikes in essential services; industrial disputes) (Part 15) 1989 May 23 1989 Aug 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1863 National Health (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)) (Part 1) 1985 Aug 28 1986 Dec 31 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2919 Cabinet (Cabinet Committee structure and membership) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 19 1990 Jul 20 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3609 Angola (Internal situation: UK/Angola relations)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1988 Sep 1 1992 Dec 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1918 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ( Prime Minister's visit to European Parliament in Strasbourg, December 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 Feb 3 1986 Dec 15 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2606 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM), Kuala Lumpur, October 1989) (Part 14) 1988 Dec 14 1989 Oct 12 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1775 Government Machinery (Ministerial responsibility for coordinating the presentation of government policies) 1983 Nov 28 1986 Jul 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3197 Transport ​​​​​​​(British Maritime League: Britain's merchant fleet) 1983 Nov 17 1990 May 23 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3784 Government Machinery (Machinery of government changes) (Part 8) 1990 Jul 2 1992 Feb 28 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3133 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Rome, December 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Nov 9 1990 Dec 17 2016 Dec 30

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