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 classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/3790 Home Affairs (Report of inspectors appointed under section 432(2) of the Companies Act 1985 to investigate the affairs of House of Fraser Holdings plc)​​ (Part 6) 1990 Mar 2 1992 Jan 8 2030 Jan 1
PREM19/1666 Aerospace (Future and structure of British Airways: engines for British Airways Boeing 747-400s; UK/US air services; UK/Canada air services) (Part 5) 1986 Jan 1 1986 Dec 22 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
PREM19/1535 India (Visits to UK by L K Jha, member of the Brandt Commission and adviser to Indira Gandhi: meetings with Prime Minister) 1983 Jun 4 1985 Mar 21 2015 Jul 16
PREM19/4269 Jamaica (Anglo-Jamaican relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 16 1993 Apr 7 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2577 Prime Minister (Personal correspondence with Princess Margaret) 1980 Jan 9 1980 Feb 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1916 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to France for Anglo-French Summit, Paris, November 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 May 7 1986 Nov 24 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3598 Energy (Energy conservation: home insulation scheme: energy efficiency) (Part 3) 1986 Nov 5 1991 Mar 27 2017 Jul 20 242
PREM19/2854 Senegal (UK/Senegal relations: visits to UK by President Diouf, February 1986 and November 1988) 1979 Oct 1 1989 Sep 18 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/4928 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Admiral Lee Baggett Jnr, SACLANT (Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic), 13 March 1986: includes correspondence regarding a telephone call between the PM and General John Galvin, US Army Supreme Commander Allied Powers Europe, 3 February 1992) 1986 Jan 30 1992 Jan 16 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3003 Germany (Internal situation in the Federal Republic of Germany) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 13 1990 Mar 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1858 National Health (Mental health legislation: draft White Paper; release of dangerous psychopaths) 1981 Oct 26 1986 Apr 22 2015 Dec 30 1
PREM19/2752 Japan (Prime Minister's visit to Japan, September 1989) (Part 3b) 1989 Sep 18 1989 Nov 10 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4092 Economic Policy (VAT zero rates: infraction proceedings; European Court of Justice judgment) (Part 2) 1989 Mar 1 1993 Nov 4 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3644 Defence (Defence sales)​​​​​​​ (Part 13) 1990 Jul 1 1992 Dec 31 Temporarily Retained by Department

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