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
PREM19/2838 Scotland (Scottish High Court judges: possible homosexual scandal) 1989 Dec 22 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2032 Cambodia (Internal situation: derecognition of Pol Pot regime; Prince Sihanouk) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 16 1988 Nov 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1556 Japan (Prime Minister's visit to Japan, September 1982) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 20 1985 Apr 16 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2748 Ireland​​​​​​​ (DeLorean sports car project) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 10 1992 Feb 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3551 Soviet Union ​​​​​​​(New Russian Embassy in Kensington Palace Gardens: Operation Brunch; proposed site for Ambassador's residence in Moscow)​​​​​​​ (Part 1) 1979 Dec 1 1991 Oct 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2688 Foreign Policy (Consular Fees (Amendment) Bill: increases in consular fees) 1979 Jul 10 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3094 National Health ​​​​​​​(Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): implementation of NHS reforms) (Part 24) 1990 Apr 2 1990 May 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3660 Downing Street (Physical security aspects of Downing Street) (Part 7) 1988 Apr 5 1992 Jul 2 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1853 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): Value for Money seminars; NHS Management Board) (Part 5) 1985 Apr 1 1986 May 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1739 Energy (Prime Minister's meeting with Douglas Hogg MP about disposal of nuclear waste) 1986 Mar 4 1986 Apr 7 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1396 Tonga (Visits to UK by King and Queen of Tonga, December 1979 and October 1983) 1979 Nov 20 1984 Mar 5 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3246 Commonwealth ​​​​​​​(Commonwealth Security Conference, London, June 1991) 1990 Nov 13 1991 Jan 14 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3846 Local Government (Water industry: structural change; privatisation of the water authorities; consultation paper 'Using Water Wisely') (Part 7) 1989 Sep 4 1992 Nov 23 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3021 Home Affairs (Civil disorder) (Part 4) 1988 Jun 21 1990 Dec 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2274 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish Summits; Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 19) 1988 May 3 1988 Dec 21 Retained Retained Sec 3.4

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