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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1913 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to The Hague for European Council meeting, June 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 Apr 11 1986 Jul 7 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2591 Botswana (Visits to the UK by President Masire of Botswana to Britain) 1980 Sep 18 1989 Jun 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1769 Government Machinery (Advisory Council on Applied Research and Development (ACARD)) (Part 4) 1986 Mar 5 1986 Dec 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/65 Greece (PM Karamanlis visit to UK, Oct 1979) 1979 Sep 5 1979 Oct 23 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 56
PREM19/1426 China (Visit to UK by Chinese Prime Minister, Zhao Ziyang, June 1985: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1982 Jul 19 1985 Jun 21 2014 Dec 30 Secret 285
PREM19/1090 National health (National Health Service (NHS) pay dispute; pay determination process in NHS) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 7 1983 Aug 18 2013 Aug 1 Secret 193
PREM19/742 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 18) 1982 Jul 23 1982 Nov 3 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 175
PREM19/407 Civil service (Pay of professional, technological and scientific grades: possibility of industrial action; review of Scientific Civil Service) 1979 Jun 15 1981 Jul 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 282
PREM19/2339 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review) (Part 13) 1988 Jun 1 1988 Jun 29 2016 Jul 21 Secret 368
PREM19/3114 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's speech at Conrad Black dinner, 21 June 1988, and meeting with Conrad Black and the Board of Hollinger, 6 September 1989) 1988 Jun 21 1990 Apr 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4213 Home Affairs (Prime Minister's meetings with the Home Secretary) 1985 Dec 6 1993 Oct 21 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2468 Royal Family (Career of the Duke of Kent: possibility of his taking on an unpaid non-executive board appointment in the public sector) 1979 May 23 1987 Apr 9 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/3403 Ireland ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish Summits; Anglo-Irish relations)(Part 21) 1990 Apr 6 1991 Jul 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1689 Defence (Development of torpedoes) 1979 Jul 20 1986 Dec 23 2014 Dec 30 Secret 111
PREM19/1346 Posts and telecommunications (Telephone rental and standing charges) 1982 Mar 12 1983 May 12 2014 Jan 3

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