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
PREM19/1972 South Korea (Prime Minister's visit to South Korea, May 1986) 1982 Mar 29 1986 May 16 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2809 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings and correspondence with Jack Peel (Director of Industrial Relations at the European Commission until March 1981)) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 1 1989 Sep 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3235 Civil Service ​​​​​​​(Dispersal policy: transfer of government work to the regions)(Part 5) 1990 Mar 1 1991 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2575 Zambia (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1987 Aug 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1912 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Expo' 86 exhibition in Vancouver, Canada, July 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 Jan 18 1986 Aug 12 2016 Feb 19 4
PREM19/3466 NATO ​​​​​​​(NATO Summits)(Part 5) 1990 Jun 1 1991 Oct 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1286 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 16) 1984 Apr 10 1984 Jun 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2999 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 2B) 1990 Feb 16 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3844 Local Government Planning controls: Planning and Compensation Bill; Sainsbury Group on Planning Issues; planning policies and the South East​​​​​​​ (Part 8) 1990 Aug 6 1992 Jun 18 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1855 National Health (Committee on Human Fertilisation and Embryology (chaired by Lady Warnock); medical ethics; human surrogacy; German conference on bioethics) (Part 1) 1982 Feb 10 1986 Apr 4 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2747 Ireland (Review of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976: prevention of terrorism legislation) 1980 Jan 31 1989 Jan 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3278 Economic Policy ​​​​​​​(London Economic Summit, July 1991)(Part 31) 1988 Aug 22 1991 Mar 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1379 Security (Article in ‘The Times’ by Edward Rowlands MP on the Labour Government and the Falkland Islands; disclosure of intelligence information and use of quotations from Cabinet Committee papers) 1983 Jan 17 1984 May 7 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1728 Education (Student loans: review of financial support for students) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 23 1986 May 19 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1853 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): Value for Money seminars; NHS Management Board) (Part 5) 1985 Apr 1 1986 May 30 2016 Feb 19

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