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
PREM19/4847 Nauru (Internal situation: Nauru/UK relations) (Part 1) 1986 Sep 26 1994 Jan 12 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2368 Nigeria (Attempted abduction of former Minister Umani Dikko) 1984 Jul 5 1987 Jun 24 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/4583 Cabinet (Cabinet meetings) (Part 1) 1979 May 6 1994 Jul 20 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2926 Civil Service (Speeches by the Heads of the Civil Service, Sir Robert Armstrong and Sir Robin Butler) 1985 Jun 14 1990 Oct 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1592 Papua New Guinea (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers Sir Julius Chan, May 1981, and Michael Somare, April 1985: meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Apr 2 1985 Apr 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/918 Security (Activities of Leo Long) 1981 Nov 2 1982 Mar 23 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/1870 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 9) 1986 Feb 14 1986 Apr 30 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2743 Industrial Policy (Industrial relations law: strikes in essential services; industrial disputes) (Part 15) 1989 May 23 1989 Aug 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1860 National Health (Contraception for the under sixteens) 1980 Apr 30 1986 Feb 27 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/3609 Angola (Internal situation: UK/Angola relations)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1988 Sep 1 1992 Dec 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2604 Civil Service (Facilities agreement for non-industrial Civil Service unions) 1979 Dec 14 1989 Oct 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1774 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste) (Part 21) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4532 Civil Service (Introduction of new technology into the Civil Service: Project Gemstone; Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) in government departments) (Part 3) 1986 May 16 1992 Jul 26 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2473 Royal Family (The Prince of Wales' Special Projects Unit) 1987 Jul 29 1987 Sep 1 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1020 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 19) 1982 Nov 4 1983 Jan 31 2019 Jan 1 Unknown

Pages