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.

 

File name Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/1870 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 9) 1986 Feb 14 1986 Apr 30 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1825 Lebanon (Internal situation: Israeli/Lebanese hostilities; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 7) 1984 Mar 1 1986 Apr 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2704 Government Machinery (Monopolies and mergers) (Part 4) 1989 Mar 8 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1351 Prime Minister (Election of Prime Minister as Honorary Bencher of Gray’s Inn) 1983 Feb 9 1984 Dec 6 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1700 Downing Street (Libel action by Richard Holt MP against The Teacher magazine: risk that No. 10 staff may be called to give evidence) 1986 Mar 17 1986 May 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1228 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 24) 1984 Apr 2 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1570 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 12) 1984 Jan 5 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1793 Home Affairs (The 1978 annual report by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC): financing of the NSPCC) 1979 Jul 2 1986 Jan 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2646 Education (Nursery education of children under 5) 1979 Dec 6 1989 Apr 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1985 Trade (Commodity policy; International Tin Agreement and International Tin Council; implications of difficulties in tin market for Cornish tin mines; Select Committee report on the tin crisis; renegotiation of International Natural Rubber Agreement) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 5 1986 May 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3555 Soviet Union ​​​​​​​(UK/Soviet relations: internal situation)​​​​​​​ (Part 18) 1990 Sep 3 1990 Nov 30 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2728 Hong Kong​​​​​​​ (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 21) 1989 Mar 2 1989 Jul 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3071 Manpower (Special employment measures: training policy; pilot schemes of training credits for young people) (Part 24) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1322 National health (Reforming the National Health Service (NHS); reorganisation: compensation terms) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 15 1984 Sep 27 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1669 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 4) 1986 Jan 25 1986 Feb 28 2016 Feb 19

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