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 classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1886 Police (Future strategy; policies to combat crime; manpower and pay)(Part 1) 1983 Jan 24 1986 Mar 27 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2777 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): community care) (Part 21) 1989 May 2 1989 Jun 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2813 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's attendance at the International Democrat Union (IDU) Conference in Tokyo, September 1989, and meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, September 1989: administrative arrangements) 1988 Dec 14 1989 Nov 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3421 Lebanon ​​​​​​​(Internal situation: UK/Lebanese relations)(Part 9) 1989 Aug 1 1991 Jul 31 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/1896 Prime Minister (Meeting with Sir Geoffrey Finsberg MP about Hampstead Health Authority) 1986 Mar 15 1986 Mar 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3618 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy: television licence fees; future of the BBC) (Part 12) 1990 Jul 2 1992 Aug 28 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1397 Trade (Britain’s international trade policies; problems with Spain and Japan; rolling back protectionism; export promotion) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 4 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2921 China (Sino-Soviet relations: visits by Edward Heath MP) 1979 May 15 1990 Jan 15 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1746 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 13) 1985 Jan 7 1986 Mar 19 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1269 Housing (Organisation and structure of building societies; mortgage rates; review of house purchase finance) (Part 1) 1979 May 22 1984 Jun 29 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2978 European Policy (Proposal for a Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Mediterranean) 1990 Oct 8 1990 Oct 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3877 Parliament (Forthcoming Parliamentary affairs) (Part 4) 1980 Sep 1 1992 May 25 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3259 Defence ​​​​​​​(Biological and chemical weapons: policy and export controls)(Part 2) 1989 Jan 1 1991 May 30 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2722 Home Affairs (Football hooliganism; Football Spectators Bill) (Part 7) 1988 Jul 5 1989 Jan 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2081 Economic Policy (Contracting-out terms for occupational pension schemes 1983-1988) 1982 Feb 17 1985 Sep 1 2016 Jul 21

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