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
PREM19/3059 Japan (Visits of Noboru Takeshita, Prime Minister of Japan (May 1988) and his successor Toshiki Kaifu (January 1990)) (Part 2) 1987 Dec 11 1990 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3650 Defence (Military uses of laser technology in space: United States Strategic Defence Initiative; Global Protection Against Limited Strikes (GPALS))​​​​​​​ (Part 6) 1989 Jun 14 1992 Sep 23 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1868 Nationalised Industries (Nationalised industry policy; financial control) (Part 10) 1985 Mar 21 1986 May 27 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2545 Soviet Union (Visits to UK by President Gorbachev) (Part 1) 1987 Nov 20 1988 Oct 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1749 European policy (European Community Budget: UK Presidency; policy after European court judgment on illegally set budget; protection of VAT ceiling and UK abatement) (Part 32) 1986 Oct 1 1986 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1406 Yugoslavia (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Milka Planinc, November 1983: meeting with Prime Minister) 1982 Jun 30 1983 Nov 25 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3232 Cars ​​​​​​​(Use of the Government Car Service)(Part 2) 1989 Sep 5 1991 Dec 17 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3830 Jamaica (Visit to the UK by Michael Manley, Prime Minister of Jamaica, October 1979) 1979 Jun 19 1992 Jun 25 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3041 Industrial Policy (The Finniston Committee of Inquiry into the Engineering Profession: Engineering Council) 1979 Dec 17 1990 Apr 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2297 Libya (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 7) 1986 May 1 1987 Feb 27 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1326 Nationalised industries (Shipbuilding policy; prospects for British Shipbuilders) (Part 6) 1984 Jan 27 1984 May 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/4307 Ministers (Policy on passenger searching at airports as it affects Ministers) 1979 Aug 2 1991 Feb 25 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3378 Home Affairs ​​​​​​​(Government support for voluntary bodies)(Part 2) 1989 Jul 10 1991 Oct 17 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3082 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 29) 1990 Sep 14 1990 Sep 29 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/2902 Agriculture (Discussion paper by Consultative Board of the Joint Consultative Organisation for Research and Development in Agriculture and Food: correspondence with Lord Rothschild; Priorities Board for Research and Development in Agriculture and Food) (Part 1) 1983 Jun 20 1990 May 29 2016 Dec 30

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