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 descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1552 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 11) 1985 Nov 1 1985 Nov 14 2014 Dec 30 1 Secret and Personal 362
PREM19/2117 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: future of polytechnics; funding regime for schools) (Part 10) 1986 Nov 3 1986 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21 Secret and Personal 254
PREM19/2172 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 7) 1986 Nov 3 1987 Nov 27 2016 Jul 21 Secret and Personal 300
PREM19/2299 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 31) 1986 Nov 3 1987 Feb 25 2016 Oct 31 Secret and Personal 293
PREM19/2209 Government Machinery (The Strategy Group) 1986 Jun 9 1987 Jun 24 2016 Jul 21 Secret and Personal 198
PREM19/2210 Government Machinery (Possible transfer of functions between departments) 1987 Jan 30 1987 May 21 2015 Dec 30 Secret and Personal 55
PREM19/2214 Histories (Histories of Special Operations Executive (SOE)) 1980 May 1 1988 Nov 24 2015 Dec 30 Secret and Personal 32
PREM19/1737 Energy (Oil prices: prospects for world oil market; proposed Petroleum Bill; North Sea oil prices; heavy fuel oil prices; oil prices in the longer term) (Part 2) 1983 Oct 7 1986 Jan 31 2014 Dec 31 4 Secret and Personal 336
PREM19/2054 Defence (Arms control) (Part 11) 1987 Mar 11 1987 Apr 30 2016 Jul 21 5 Secret and Personal 228
PREM19/1645 Soviet Union (Economic relations: control on strategic exports; United States sanctions; sale of Rolls-Royce gas turbines; Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) list review) (Part 2) 1982 Nov 12 1985 Oct 24 2014 Dec 30 Secret and Personal 286
PREM19/2055 Defence (Arms control) (Part 12) 1987 May 1 1987 Jun 22 2016 Jul 21 4 Secret and Personal 281
PREM19/1803 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland/Rover Group) (Part 12) 1986 May 1 1986 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 1 Secret and Personal 294
PREM19/2224 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: increase in the prison population) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 12 1987 Oct 27 2016 Nov 7 2 Secret and Personal 292
PREM19/2193 Government Machinery (Monopolies and mergers) (Part 1) 1983 Jun 30 1987 Feb 26 2016 Jul 21 Secret and Personal 230
PREM19/2178 Foreign Policy (Strategy on foreign policy and defence issues) (Part 3) 1985 Apr 1 1987 Jul 31 2016 Jul 21 Secret and Strictly Personal 216

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