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
PREM19/3291 Economic Policy ​​​​​​​(Speeches by the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England)(Part 3) 1986 Oct 16 1991 Jul 2 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2779 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service: community care) (Part 22) 1989 Jul 5 1989 Oct 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2783 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: industrial energy policy; privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 16) 1989 Jan 5 1989 Aug 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2065 Defence (UK strategic nuclear deterrent) (Part 7) 1985 Feb 1 1987 Jun 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1236 Foreign policy (Meeting of South Pacific Forum; correspondence with Bob Hawke, Prime Minister of Australia, on a single regional organisation in South Pacific) 1980 Jul 17 1984 Apr 24 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3421 Lebanon ​​​​​​​(Internal situation: UK/Lebanese relations)(Part 9) 1989 Aug 1 1991 Jul 31 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/1969 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 12) 1986 Jul 16 1986 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19 3
PREM19/2645 Education (General policy on education) (Part 22) 1989 Jul 3 1989 Dec 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3567 Sport ​​​​​​​(British bid to host the Olympic Games in 1992 or later: bids by Birmingham and Manchester)​​​​​​​ (Part 1) 1985 Feb 25 1991 Nov 26 2017 Jul 20
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
PREM19/1755 European Policy (European Institute of Public Administration at Maastricht) 1981 Nov 19 1986 Aug 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3891 Prime Minister Briefing for new Prime Minister and spouse 1990 Nov 1 1992 Feb 5 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2984 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS): economic and monetary union) (Part 8) 1990 Jul 1 1990 Oct 31 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2176 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Australia, Bahrain, Oman, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Dubai, August 1988) (Part 1) 1988 May 12 1988 Jul 31 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1675 Australia (Visits of Australian Prime Ministers to London: Malcolm Fraser (February 1980 and July 1981) and Robert Hawke (June 1983 and April 1986); meetings with the Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 21 1986 Apr 22 2014 Dec 30

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