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
PREM19/3543 Social Services ​​​​​​​(Perinatal and infant mortality)​​​​​​​ (Part 2) 1988 Mar 15 1990 Dec 7 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2516 Security (Lord and Lady Rothschild) 1987 Jun 8 1987 Jul 17 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1730 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 6) 1986 Jan 6 1986 Mar 26 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1387 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 10 1984 Feb 9 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/3865 NATO Visits to the UK by the Secretary General of NATO 1979 Sep 27 1992 Jun 3 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3002 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 5) 1990 Sep 5 1990 Nov 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2243 India (UK/Indian relations: Rihand power station) (Part 5) 1985 Jun 3 1987 May 21 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1648 Trade (Export promotion: General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); export credits; contract for second Bosphorus bridge) (Part 4) 1984 Jun 1 1985 Jun 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1307 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 22) 1984 Aug 1 1984 Sep 27 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3236 Civil Service ​​​​​​​(Pay and pensions: Passport Department industrial dispute)(Part 18) 1989 Feb 1 1991 Jul 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2992 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 10) 1989 Dec 1 1990 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2865 South Africa (Visits to the UK by the South African Foreign Minister, Pik Botha) 1979 Oct 16 1989 Mar 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2047 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, October 1987) (Part 12) 1987 Oct 9 1987 Oct 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1227 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 23B) 1984 Mar 1 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3382 Home Affairs ​​​​​​​(Probation Service pay: reorganisation of the Probation Service) 1979 Jun 5 1991 Jun 11 2017 Jul 20

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