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
PREM19/3106 Parliament ​​​​​​​(Appointment of Parliamentary Private Secretaries) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 10 1990 Dec 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3989 Yugoslavia (Internal situation: UK/Yugoslavia relations)(Part 2) 1988 Oct 21 1991 Oct 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3343 France ​​​​​​​(Internal situation)(Part 3) 1986 Oct 7 1991 Nov 21 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2647 Education (The Open College) 1987 Aug 21 1989 Mar 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1790 Home Affairs (Interim payments for civil legal aid work: criminal legal aid remuneration) (Part 1) 1982 Dec 8 1986 Jul 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2648 Education (School meals, milk and transport) 1979 Sep 13 1989 Jun 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1987 Trade (Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD); review of ECGD's status; financial position) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 17 1986 May 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3550 Soviet Union ​​​​​​​(Human rights and the position of dissidents in the Soviet Union: policy towards the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE))​​​​​​​ (Part 1) 1990 Jun 1 1991 Mar 4 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2714 Government Machinery (Review of the Exchequer and Audit Department Acts: role and salary of Comptroller and Auditor General) (Part 3) 1983 Feb 11 1989 Sep 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3080 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 27) 1990 Sep 1 1990 Sep 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3785 Histories (Official History of British Intelligence in the Second World War: Regimental History of the Intelligence Corps​​​​​​​) 1980 Jan 1 1992 Oct 12 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3174 Soviet Union ​​​​​​​(Human rights and the position of dissidents in the Soviet Union: policy towards the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE)) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 17 1990 May 26 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1320 National health (Seminar on health and social security, September 1983; Social Security Policy Reviews) (Part 1) 1983 Jul 26 1984 Jun 22 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/4281 Legal Procedures (Bail Act 1976) (Part 1) 1987 Mar 20 1993 Apr 27 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2832 Royal Family (Ownership of the Royal Palaces: Historic Royal Palaces Agency) 1987 Nov 26 1989 Dec 6 2016 Dec 30

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