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 Endssort descending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2326 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 16) 1987 Mar 5 1987 Sep 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2446 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to France and Germany, March 1987: administrative arrangements) 1987 Mar 5 1987 Mar 25 2016 Nov 7 3 Confidential 30
PREM19/3414 Japan ​​​​​​​(Internal situation)(Part 2) 1987 Mar 5 1991 Oct 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2436 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Brussels, June 1987: administrative arrangements) 1987 Mar 6 1987 Jul 2 2016 Jul 21 4 Restricted 29
PREM19/2075 Disasters (Sinking of Townsend Thoresen ferry Herald of Free Enterprise at Zeebrugge, 6 March 1987) 1987 Mar 6 1988 Feb 9 2016 Jul 21 6
PREM19/3034 Hungary (UK/Hungarian relations: internal situation) (Part 3) 1987 Mar 10 1990 Jun 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2054 Defence (Arms control) (Part 11) 1987 Mar 11 1987 Apr 30 2016 Jul 21 5 Secret and Personal 228
PREM19/2505 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 6) 1987 Mar 13 1987 Mar 31 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2029 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; subscription television; independent television producers) (Part 4) 1987 Mar 17 1987 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2098 Economic Policy (Pension funds) 1987 Mar 24 1987 Jul 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2253 Industrial Policy (Research and development) (Part 4) 1987 Mar 28 1987 Jul 31 2016 Jul 21 Confidential and Personal 201
PREM19/2102 Economic Policy (Policy towards privatisation; disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions) (Part 16) 1987 Apr 1 1988 Dec 14 2016 Dec 30 Secret 333
PREM19/3494 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(Policy Unit briefing for PM: general topics)(Part 2) 1987 Apr 1 1991 Jan 29 2017 Jul 20 Secret 269
PREM19/2530 Soviet Union (Prime Minister's visit to Soviet Union, March-April 1987: briefing for Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1987 Apr 1 1987 Jun 26 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2041 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy; financial management; equal opportunities in employment; performance pay) (Part 21) 1987 Apr 1 1988 Dec 30 2016 Feb 19

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