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 classification Pagessort ascending
PREM19/2023 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; cable systems and their effect on broadcasting policy) (Part 6) 1986 Mar 6 1988 Jun 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2688 Foreign Policy (Consular Fees (Amendment) Bill: increases in consular fees) 1979 Jul 10 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1854 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Management Board) (Part 6) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Sep 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1739 Energy (Prime Minister's meeting with Douglas Hogg MP about disposal of nuclear waste) 1986 Mar 4 1986 Apr 7 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4872 Parliament (Prime Minister's meeting with the Speaker of House of Commons) (Part 1) 1983 Nov 14 1994 Mar 7 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3023 Home Affairs (Financial provision after divorce) 1982 Jan 1 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2274 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish Summits; Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 19) 1988 May 3 1988 Dec 21 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/4242 India (Foreign policy: internal situation; re-election of Mrs Gandhi; aid to India; Indo-Soviet relations; Indo-Pakistan relations) (Part 2) 1990 Jun 1 1993 Apr 23 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4243 Indonesia (Visits by Dr Habibie, Indonesian Minister for Research and Technology) 1983 Jun 15 1993 Jun 28 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2198 Government Machinery (Annual reports on the Government Statistical Service; review of statistical services) (Part 2) 1984 Apr 16 1988 Nov 25 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2887 Transport (Consultative paper on the Government's response to the Blennerhassett Committee's recommendations on drinking and driving: White Paper on road safety) 1979 Jul 26 1989 Nov 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2066 Defence (Intelligence gathering operations) (Part 3) 1985 Jan 9 1987 Jan 21 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2613 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 11) 1988 Aug 1 1989 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3529 Security ​​​​​​​(Product of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC)) 1984 Jun 22 1991 Mar 13 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2715 Government Machinery (Reviews of tourism and leisure policy) (Part 1) 1983 May 13 1989 Jun 16 2016 Dec 30

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