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 descending Link to selections
PREM19/3098 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 18) 1990 Jan 2 1990 Apr 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2397 Prime Minister (Request by Electronic Data Systems to employ Mark Thatcher) 1987 Feb 1 1987 Feb 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1686 Civil Service (Property Services Agency (PSA) restructuring: report by Sir Geoffrey Wardale on fraud in the PSA) (Part 1) 1982 Jul 22 1986 Aug 5 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1343 Portugal (Prime Minister's visit to Portugal, April 1984) 1984 Feb 8 1984 Aug 9 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3349 Gabon ​​​​​​​(UK/Gabon relations)(Part 1) 1980 Jan 3 1991 Mar 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3982 USA (Visits to the UK by George H W Bush and Dan Quayle, Vice Presidents of the USA) (Part 2) 1987 Aug 11 1992 Feb 14 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2944 Economic Policy (Strategy) (Part 28) 1987 Dec 31 1990 Sep 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2101 Economic Policy (Policy towards privatisation; disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions) (Part 15) 1986 Nov 19 1987 Mar 25 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1601 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's visit to Lloyd's of London: note of meeting with chairman Peter Miller, February 1985) 1985 Jan 18 1985 Feb 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/590 Security (Policy on interception) (Part 3) 1980 Apr 18 1981 Oct 9 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/3489 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meeting with Dr Cornelio Sommaruga, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, 7 February 1991) 1990 Aug 11 1991 Feb 7 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2651 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 11) 1987 Oct 2 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2114 Education (Review of dental education; proposed closure of two dental schools) 1988 Jun 29 1988 Aug 9 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2755 Legal Procedure (Restrictive practices in the legal profession: legal profession in Scotland) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 2 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1879 Parliament (House of Commons procedure: replies to Select Committee reports; conflict of interests in the House of Commons) (Part 7) 1985 Jun 3 1986 Jun 16 2016 Jul 21

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