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
PREM19/2498 Security (Threat of unauthorised disclosure by former employee of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)) 1987 Feb 6 1987 Mar 20 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2296 Legal Procedure (Quia timet injunctions) 1987 Feb 9 1987 Feb 25 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 26
PREM19/3838 Kenya (Visits to the UK by President Daniel arap Moi) ​(Part 2) 1987 Feb 9 1992 Mar 12 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2334 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS)) (Part 8) 1987 Feb 10 1987 Sep 14 2016 Jul 21 Secret 125
PREM19/2148 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 16) 1987 Feb 10 1987 Mar 27 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 275
PREM19/3186 Soviet Union (Situation of Jews in the Soviet Union: Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry; Prime Minister's meeting with Ida Nudel; Raoul Wallenberg) (Part 2) 1987 Feb 10 1990 Jun 20 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2357 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 12) 1987 Feb 12 1987 Sep 28 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 237
PREM19/2576 Zimbabwe (Possible purchase of UK military aircraft) 1987 Feb 18 1987 Jul 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2880 Trade (Britain's international trading policies: General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Uruguay Round; export promotion) (Part 6) 1987 Feb 18 1989 Aug 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2083 Economic Policy (Correspondence from and meetings with Sir Walter Salomon, private banker) (Part 2) 1987 Feb 19 1987 Apr 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2140 Energy (Release of 30 year old records about the Windscale fire in 1957) 1987 Feb 23 1987 Oct 2 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 9
PREM19/2434 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, and private visit to Dallas, October 1987: administrative arrangements) (Part 1) 1987 Mar 1 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21 17 Secret 203
PREM19/2119 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure; national school curriculum; financial delegation and opting out) (Part 12) 1987 Mar 2 1987 Apr 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2300 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 32) 1987 Mar 3 1987 Jul 30 2016 Oct 31 Secret and CMO 325
PREM19/2194 Government Machinery (Monopolies and mergers) (Part 2) 1987 Mar 3 1988 Feb 29 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 356

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