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 ascending Link to selections
PREM19/3004 Germany (Prime Minister's meeting with Lothar de Maiziere, Prime Minister of the Germany Democratic Republic, June 1990) 1990 May 31 1990 Jun 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2266 Iraq (Internal situation: Iran-Iraq War) (Part 6) 1987 Jul 20 1987 Aug 10 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/3220 Barbados ​​​​​​​(Calls on the Prime Minister by Prime Ministers of Barbados, Tom Adams and his successor Erskine Sandiford) 1980 Apr 22 1991 Jun 26 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1323 Nationalised industries (Pay of Chairmen and Board members) (Part 2) 1981 Dec 4 1984 May 29 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2200 Government Machinery (Future of Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) and nuclear Royal Ordnance Factories; privatisation of Royal Ordnance Factories) 1980 Sep 22 1988 Jul 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2870 Soviet Union (Visit to the UK by Dr Andrei Sakharov: meeting with the Prime Minister, 23 June 1989) 1989 Apr 26 1989 Jun 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2049 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting on South Africa in London, August 1986) 1986 Jul 4 1987 Jan 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2058 Defence (Policy on biological and chemical weapons) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 1 1988 Dec 23 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1566 Malaysia (UK/Malaysia relations: visit to UK by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, March 1983; meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 28 1985 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30 4
PREM19/3358 Government Hospitality​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​(The standard of catering and service provided by the Government Hospitality Fund: recommendation that government hospitality be subject to a Rayner study​​​​​​​) 1979 Jul 5 1991 May 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1243 France (Prime Minister's visits to France, May 1984 and November 1984) (Part 4) 1984 May 2 1984 Dec 11 2014 Jan 3 2
PREM19/2700 Government Buildings (Purchase of government accommodation in the Whitehall area) 1983 Jul 23 1989 Sep 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1828 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; aftermath of shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau, 17 April 1984; severance of diplomatic relations) (Part 3B) 1984 May 31 1986 Apr 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3508 Poland ​​​​​​​(UK/Polish relations: internal situation; economic assistance)(Part 12) 1990 Jan 2 1991 May 13 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1868 Nationalised Industries (Nationalised industry policy; financial control) (Part 10) 1985 Mar 21 1986 May 27 2016 Feb 19

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