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
PREM19/1252 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Scrutiny Programme; review of government purchasing) (Part 16) 1984 Aug 1 1984 Nov 20 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3509 Post and Telecommunications ​​​​​​​(Future of the Post Office: Telecommunications Duopoly Review)(Part 13) 1990 Jul 6 1991 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2741 Industrial Policy (Short Brothers Plc: corporate plan and privatisation prospects) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 13 1989 Mar 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1858 National Health (Mental health legislation: draft White Paper; release of dangerous psychopaths) 1981 Oct 26 1986 Apr 22 2015 Dec 30 1
PREM19/2922 Civil Service (Dispersal policy: transfer of government work to the regions) (Part 4) 1988 Apr 5 1990 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3611 Arts and Amenities ​​​​​​​(Charitable trust for works of art in the Palace of Westminster) 1990 Jun 28 1991 Mar 27 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1916 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to France for Anglo-French Summit, Paris, November 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 May 7 1986 Nov 24 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2599 Civil Service (Pay and pensions: pay dispute and strike) (Part 17) 1987 Apr 2 1989 Jan 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1773 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; Efficiency Unit report on 'The Use of Value for Money Targets 1985-86', volume II) 1986 Apr 1 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3201 United Nations ​​​​​​​(United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD): Common Fund for Commodities) (Part 2) 1987 Oct 5 1990 May 2 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3786 Home Affairs (The 1991 Census)​​​​​​​ (Part 2) 1987 Oct 16 1992 Sep 12 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3121 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Lady Porter, 13 September 1990: proposal for a Minister for London) 1990 Sep 13 1990 Nov 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2472 Royal Family (Career of Prince Andrew, Duke of York) 1979 May 21 1987 Oct 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/3132 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Switzerland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, September 1990: administrative arrangements) 1989 Dec 1 1990 Oct 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2473 Royal Family (The Prince of Wales' Special Projects Unit) 1987 Jul 29 1987 Sep 1 Retained Retained Sec 3.4

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