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 classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1906 Prime Minister (Gift of moon dust to the people of the UK from President Nixon of the USA. Note: With photograph) 1970 Feb 10 1985 Jan 18 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2785 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 15) 1988 Oct 4 1989 Jul 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3416 Jordan ​​​​​​​(UK/Jordanian relations)(Part 2) 1986 Mar 16 1990 Nov 30 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/1901 Prime Minister (Tam Dalyell's motion on conduct of Prime Minister) 1986 Jun 4 1986 Jun 5 2016 Feb 19
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
PREM19/2912 Bangladesh (Visit to UK by General Ershad, Chief Martial Law Administrator, June 1982: visit by President Ershad, February 1989; Prime Minister's meeting with Foreign Minister, Anisul Islam Mahmud, June 1990) 1982 Jun 7 1990 Oct 23 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1751 European Policy (European Council meeting, London, December 1986) (Part 23) 1985 Jul 15 1986 Nov 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1277 Industrial policy (Micro-electronics industry; support for Inmos Ltd (INMOS)) (Part 2) 1980 May 1 1984 Mar 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1623 Security (Security of Buckingham Palace grounds: incident on 9 July 1982; review of law of trespass) 1981 Aug 20 1985 May 9 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2150 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 18) 1987 Oct 1 1988 Mar 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2983 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS): economic and monetary union) (Part 7) 1990 May 1 1990 Jun 27 2016
PREM19/3866 Netherlands (Visits to the UK by Ruud Lubbers, Dutch Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1986 Sep 11 1992 Dec 23 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3253 Defence ​​​​​​​(Manpower level of the British Army of the Rhine (BOAR)) 1980 Jun 27 1991 Aug 23 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2732 Hungary (Visits to the UK by Prime Ministers Karoly Grosz, (May 1988) and Miklos Nemeth (December 1989)) 1987 Jul 28 1989 Dec 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1370 Science and technology (Prime Minister’s seminar on science, technology, and industry, September 1983) (Part 1) 1982 Dec 22 1984 Feb 2 2014 Jan 3

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