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
PREM19/2948 Economic Policy (Prime Minister's meetings with the Chancellor of the Exchequer) (Part 3) 1988 Sep 2 1990 Nov 15 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3624 Canada (Calls on the Prime Minister by the Premiers of Canadian Provinces) 1979 Aug 6 1992 Feb 7 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1909 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Lille, France, January 1986: Anglo-French Summit on the Channel Fixed Link; administrative arrangements) 1985 Dec 4 1986 Jan 21 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2579 Economic Policy (Inquiry into Barlow Clowes Group) 1988 Jun 13 1988 Sep 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1703 Economic policy (Policy towards privatisation: disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions; flotation of Royal Ordnance PLC; Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) picketing at DHSS Huyton Local Office over privatised cleaning contract) (Part 13) 1985 Dec 2 1986 Jun 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1360 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Clifton Garvin, Chairman of Exxon Corporation, and Archibald Forster, Chairman of Esso Petroleum, July 1984) 1982 Jun 7 1984 Jun 3 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3210 USA ​​​​​​​(UK/USA relations)(Part 7) 1989 May 2 1990 Aug 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3794 Home Affairs (Review of restrictions on shopping hours and Sunday trading: Shops Bill 1986; review of licensing hours) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 12 1992 Jan 30 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3098 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 18) 1990 Jan 2 1990 Apr 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2397 Prime Minister (Request by Electronic Data Systems to employ Mark Thatcher) 1987 Feb 1 1987 Feb 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2133 Elections (Election procedure) (Part 3) 1987 May 13 1988 Mar 31 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1621 Security (Publication of 'British Intelligence and Covert Action' by Jonathan Bloch and Patrick Fitzgerald: security issues; Bloch's UK refugee residency status; protection of intelligence identities) 1983 Mar 9 1985 Oct 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1281 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 10) 1983 Mar 4 1984 Apr 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3349 Gabon ​​​​​​​(UK/Gabon relations)(Part 1) 1980 Jan 3 1991 Mar 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3982 USA (Visits to the UK by George H W Bush and Dan Quayle, Vice Presidents of the USA) (Part 2) 1987 Aug 11 1992 Feb 14 2017 Dec 29

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