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
PREM19/3852 Ministers (Departmental responsibilities of the Whips) (Part 1) 1986 Oct 29 1992 Apr 15 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3014 Government Machinery (The Government's accountability for events under previous Administrations) 1990 Mar 12 1990 Mar 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2271 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish Summits; Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 16) 1986 May 8 1987 Feb 1 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1654 USA (Economic situation in the United States) (Part 2) 1982 Oct 12 1985 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1313 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; Youth Training Scheme; review of Community Programme) (Part 10) 1983 Jul 1 1984 Oct 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/4239 Industrial Policy (Ford productivity and government assistance: pay disputes at Ford; Prime Minister's meetings with Ford Chairmen and Presidents) 1980 Oct 13 1993 Jun 8 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3392 Immigration ​​​​​​​(Immigration Rules: asylum; immigration figures)(Part 5) 1990 Sep 1 1991 Nov 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2880 Trade (Britain's international trading policies: General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Uruguay Round; export promotion) (Part 6) 1987 Feb 18 1989 Aug 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2061 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 10) 1988 Feb 3 1988 Jul 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1233 European policy (Public attitudes to Europe) 1980 Jun 18 1984 Jun 2 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2673 European Policy (European Convention on Human Rights) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 6 1989 Sep 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3536 Security ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's comments on codeword documents)​​​​​​​ 1979 Jun 21 1991 Feb 10 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2040 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy; financial management; multi-department review of budgeting; equal opportunities in employment) (Part 20) 1986 Oct 3 1987 Mar 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2704 Government Machinery (Monopolies and mergers) (Part 4) 1989 Mar 8 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1831 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; United States response to Libyan terrorism) (Part 5) 1986 Apr 17 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30

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