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 Endssort descending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3107 Parliament ​​​​​​​(House of Commons procedure: Select Committees) (Part 10) 1989 Apr 7 1990 May 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3352 Germany ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Kohl in Germany​​​​​​​)(Part 8) 1989 Apr 10 1991 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2932 Defence (Future UK defence policy) (Part 4) 1989 Apr 11 1990 Jul 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2837 Science and Technology (Consideration of British candidates for Nobel Prizes for science) 1989 Apr 11 1989 Apr 13 2016 Dec 30 Unclassified 6
PREM19/2620 Disasters (Disaster at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, 15 April 1989) (Part 1) 1989 Apr 15 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 289
PREM19/2707 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; value for money seminars; Next Steps initiative) (Part 30) 1989 Apr 17 1989 Jun 3 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3810 Industrial Policy (Short Brothers plc: sale to Bombardier; launch aid application for Learjet 45 project) (Part 3) 1989 Apr 18 1992 Dec 4 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3175 Soviet Union ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visits to the Soviet Union, September 1989 and June 1990: policy) (Part 3) 1989 Apr 19 1990 May 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2804 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Professor Abdus Salam, May 1989) 1989 Apr 21 1989 May 8 2016 Dec 30 Unclassified 28
PREM19/2656 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Prime Minister's seminar on the global climate, April 1989) (Part 10) 1989 Apr 21 1989 May 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2582 Aerospace (Air Combat Manoeuvring Installation in the North Sea) 1989 Apr 23 1989 Jun 6 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2870 Soviet Union (Visit to the UK by Dr Andrei Sakharov: meeting with the Prime Minister, 23 June 1989) 1989 Apr 26 1989 Jun 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2753 Japan (Prime Minister's visit to Japan, September 1989) (Part 3a) 1989 Apr 27 1989 Sep 15 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2889 United Nations (International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference, Nice, 1989) 1989 May 1 1989 Jun 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2594 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy) (Part 8) 1989 May 2 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30

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