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
PREM19/2087 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 19) 1988 Jul 1 1988 Oct 28 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2941 Economic Policy (Brandt Commission memorandum 'Common Crisis': 'Facing One World', report by an Independent Group on Financial Flows to Developing Countries) (Part 5) 1983 Jan 27 1990 Sep 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3956 Trade and Industry (Commodity policy: International Tin Council settlement with creditors)(Part 5) 1989 Feb 1 1992 Jul 6 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1243 France (Prime Minister's visits to France, May 1984 and November 1984) (Part 4) 1984 May 2 1984 Dec 11 2014 Jan 3 2
PREM19/3325 European Policy ​​​​​​​(European Monetary System (EMS): economic and monetary union)(Part 9) 1990 Nov 8 1991 Feb 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2613 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 11) 1988 Aug 1 1989 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1809 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach) (Part 12) 1985 Nov 15 1985 Nov 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2678 Food (Food safety) (Part 2) 1989 Apr 3 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2025 Broadcasting (Recording and rental of audio and video copyright material; blank tape levy) 1985 Feb 13 1987 Aug 25 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3533 Security ​​​​​​​(Telephone scramblers installed in private homes: security of the private homes of No. 10 Downing Street staff)​​​​​​​ 1981 Jan 14 1991 Jan 30 2052 Jan 1
PREM19/1684 Civil Service (Long term management and manpower policy: duties and responsibilities of civil servants; performance bonuses) (Part 19) 1986 May 2 1986 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3147 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to the Soviet Union, June 1990: administrative arrangements) 1989 Oct 6 1990 Jun 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3759 Foreign Policy (Distribution of FCO telegrams to No. 10 Downing Street​​​​​​​) 1984 Jun 29 1992 Jul 24 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3137 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visit to Bermuda, April 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Mar 9 1990 Jul 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3376 Home Affairs ​​​​​​​(The problem of dangerous dogs)(Part 1) 1989 Jun 8 1991 Mar 29 2017 Jul 20

Pages