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
PREM19/3520 Saudi Arabia ​​​​​​​(Visit of Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, May 1979) 1979 May 19 1991 May 20 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1780 Government Machinery (Non-dePartmental public bodies (quangos): a Guide for Departments; review programme) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 2 1986 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2630 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 20) 1988 Nov 4 1989 Aug 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3940 Security (Policy on interception of communications)(Part 7) 1988 Feb 29 1992 Aug 20 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3358 Government Hospitality​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​(The standard of catering and service provided by the Government Hospitality Fund: recommendation that government hospitality be subject to a Rayner study​​​​​​​) 1979 Jul 5 1991 May 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1309 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 24) 1984 Dec 3 1984 Dec 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1656 USA (UK/USA relations) (Part 3) 1984 Feb 9 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2037 Civil Service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs) (Part 3) 1986 Aug 12 1988 Dec 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3043 Industrial Policy (Wages Councils: future) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 1 1990 Jan 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3184 Soviet Union (Visits to the UK by Eduard Shevardnadze, Soviet Foreign Minister, July 1986 and December 1989) 1986 Jun 2 1990 Jan 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1906 Prime Minister (Gift of moon dust to the people of the UK from President Nixon of the USA. Note: With photograph) 1970 Feb 10 1985 Jan 18 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2785 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 15) 1988 Oct 4 1989 Jul 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3569 St Vincent ​​​​​​​(Independence: relations with UK)​​​​​​​ 1979 Jun 20 1991 Jun 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2787 NATO (NATO's 30th, 35th and 40th anniversaries) 1979 May 10 1989 Mar 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3568 Sport ​​​​​​​(Sporting relations with South Africa)​​​​​​​ (Part 2) 1980 Mar 1 1991 Oct 15 2017 Jul 20

Pages