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
PREM19/2879 Trade (Commodity policy: International Tin Council litigation; International Coffee Agreement) (Part 4) 1986 Nov 5 1989 Nov 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2198 Government Machinery (Annual reports on the Government Statistical Service; review of statistical services) (Part 2) 1984 Apr 16 1988 Nov 25 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1779 Government Machinery (Proposed merger of General Electric Company (GEC) and Plessey: possible referral to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission) 1986 Jan 17 1986 Jun 10 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2629 Economic Policy (International finance: indebtedness of various countries) (Part 7) 1987 Nov 9 1989 May 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1963 Social Services (The maternity grant) 1979 Dec 21 1986 Mar 5 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3579 Treasury ​​​​​​​(Barlow Clowes)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1989 Nov 16 1991 Dec 19 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2784 Nationalised Industry (Gas and electricity pricing policy: privatisation of the electricity supply industry; nuclear power) (Part 17) 1989 Sep 7 1989 Dec 22 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3806 Industrial Policy (Ports: national dock strike in 1989; privatisation of Trust Ports​​​​​​​) (Part 6) 1989 Jun 1 1992 Mar 10 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1308 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 23) 1984 Oct 2 1984 Nov 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1655 USA (Visits to UK by George Shultz, US Secretary of State: meetings with Prime Minister) 1982 Apr 9 1985 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3043 Industrial Policy (Wages Councils: future) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 1 1990 Jan 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1524 Home Affairs (Monopolies and Mergers papers) (Part 1) 1981 Dec 10 1985 Dec 19 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1890 Prime Minister (Meeting with Geoffrey Dickens MP about child welfare and protection, 30 January 1986) 1986 Jan 15 1986 Feb 21 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

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