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
PREM19/3017 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; value for money seminars; Next Steps initiative) (Part 32) 1989 Nov 6 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4033 Civil Service (Property Services Agency restructuring: Wardall Enquiry) (Part 4) 1990 Aug 3 1993 Jun 23 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2273 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish Summits; Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 18) 1987 Nov 18 1987 Apr 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/3470 New Zealand ​​​​​​​(Calls on the Prime Minister by the New Zealand High Commissioners) 1979 Jul 3 1991 Jun 3 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1656 USA (UK/USA relations) (Part 3) 1984 Feb 9 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2847 Security (Access to classified documents and information by individuals and allied countries) 1984 Aug 2 1989 Dec 15 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3590 Vietnam ​​​​​​​(Vietnamese refugees)​​​​​​​ (Part 5) 1989 Jul 12 1991 Oct 30 2032 Jan 1
PREM19/2195 Government Machinery (Proposed London Weekend Television (LWT) series on the Civil Service and the British system of government) 1985 Mar 29 1988 Apr 15 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2883 Trade (Consumer safety) 1984 Feb 6 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2064 Defence (Future UK defence policy; merchant shipping and defence needs; Defence White Paper) (Part 3) 1987 Nov 10 1988 Nov 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1572 Mozambique (Visits to UK by President Samora Machel: meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Jun 24 1985 Sep 28 2014 Dec 30 1
PREM19/1235 Foreign policy (Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) assessments summaries produced by Sir Percy Cradock) 1983 Mar 16 1984 Nov 1 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2043 Civil Service (Pay and pensions: geographical pay variations in the non-industrial Civil Service; non-industrial pay negotiations) (Part 16) 1986 Jun 2 1987 Mar 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2712 Government Machinery (The Central Office of Information (COI) and the future of the Information Services: Government advertising expenditure; repayment for services provided by the COI) 1979 May 18 1989 May 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3138 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visit to Helsinki, August 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Oct 2 2017 Jul 20

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