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
PREM19/2123 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: national curriculum; education in Scotland and Wales; Education Reform Bill; financial delegation; Government response to Education, Science and Arts Select Committee report) (Part 16) 1987 Nov 2 1987 Dec 30 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/2963 Environmental Affairs (Ban on trading in ivory) 1989 Jun 14 1990 Mar 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3917 Royal Family (Marriage and separation of Prince Andrew) 1986 Mar 1 1992 Mar 21 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3277 Economic Policy ​​​​​​​(Paris Economic Summit, July 1989)(Part 27) 1989 Jan 13 1989 Jul 7 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2584 Agricultural (Agricultural Wages Board) 1983 Mar 28 1989 Jan 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3518 Royal Family ​​​​​​​(Celebration of the Queen Mother's 80th and 90th birthdays: gift by the Cabinet; Loyal Address in Parliament) 1979 Aug 1 1991 Jan 8 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2706 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; value for money seminars; Next Steps initiative) (Part 29) 1988 Dec 1 1989 Apr 20 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1353 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Barry Jones MP about British Aerospace (BAe) redundancies in Broughton; launch aid for Airbus A320) 1984 Jan 16 1984 Feb 6 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1702 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 35) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3200 Turkey (Visits to the UK by Turkish President Kenan Evran (July 1988) and his successor Turgat Ozal (September 1990)) 1988 Mar 21 1990 Sep 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3696 Education (Pay of university teachers and academic staff) 1980 Apr 25 1992 Jul 13 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3106 Parliament ​​​​​​​(Appointment of Parliamentary Private Secretaries) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 10 1990 Dec 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2900 Aerospace (The fourth and fifth terminals for Heathrow Airport: developments at Heathrow) 1979 Dec 3 1990 Jan 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3987 Vatican (UK/Vatican relations: internal situation) 1980 Oct 27 1992 Dec 11 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1230 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 26) 1984 Jul 7 1984 Jul 31 2014 Jan 3

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