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
PREM19/3912 Qatar (Visits to the UK by the Amir of Qatar) (Part 2) 1990 Feb 1 1992 Feb 10 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2980 European Policy (Special European Council meeting, Dublin, April 1990; European Council meeting, Dublin, June 1990) (Part 36A) 1990 Feb 16 1990 Jul 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2160 European Policy (European Council meeting, Hanover, June 1988) (Part 29) 1988 Apr 1 1988 Jun 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/3317 European Policy ​​​​​​​(European Council meeting, Maastricht, December 1991)(Part 39) 1990 Jan 18 1991 Nov 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2816 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris to attend the Economic Summit, July 1989: administrative arrangements) 1988 May 31 1989 Aug 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2011 Aerospace (Space policy) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 4 1987 May 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1247 Gibraltar (Policy) (Part 4) 1983 Jul 1 1984 Mar 20 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/4068 Djibouti (UK/Djibouti relations) 1986 Aug 6 1993 Sep 19 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/912 Security ('Doomsday Minus Four' by Larry Clark) 1982 Jan 14 1982 Jan 15 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/3459 National Health ​​​​​​​(Medical ethics (bioethics): DNA profiling; Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill)(Part 3) 1988 Mar 12 1991 Mar 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1990 Transport (London Regional Transport) (Part 1) 1983 Nov 3 1986 Nov 27 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2669 European Policy (European Council meeting, Strasbourg, December 1989) (Part 36) 1989 Dec 12 1989 Dec 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2815 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Kuala Lumpur for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), October 1989: administrative arrangements) 1988 Feb 19 1989 Nov 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3583 United Nations ​​​​​​​(United Nations Human Rights Commission: appointment of Sir Anthony Williams as UK delegate) 1983 Nov 1 1991 Jun 2 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3678 Economic Policy (Meetings of National Economic Development Council (NEDC): abolition of NEDC and National Economic Development Office (NEDO))(Part 14) 1986 Apr 14 1992 Jun 23 2017 Dec 29

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