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.

 

File name Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/2890 USA (Visits to UK by President Bush, May-June 1989 and July 1991) (Part 4) 1989 Mar 28 1991 Aug 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1756 European Policy (European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR): impact of European Court of Human Rights findings on UK domestic law) (Part 1) 1980 Nov 12 1986 May 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1282 Industrial policy (Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development (ACARD) report on new opportunities in manufacturing) 1984 Jul 24 1984 Sep 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2993 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 11) 1989 Feb 1 1990 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1846 Defence (Policing of demonstrations at military bases: activities of anti-nuclear demonstrators) (Part 1) 1983 Feb 17 1986 Mar 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2742 Industrial Policy (Policy towards employee involvement: profit sharing and share options) 1979 Sep 25 1989 Oct 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2656 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Prime Minister's seminar on the global climate, April 1989) (Part 10) 1989 Apr 21 1989 May 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1501 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Egypt and Jordan, September 1985: policy and briefing) 1985 Jul 15 1985 Sep 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4053 Defence ( Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve Forces: report of the Review Body on Armed Forces; pay on Bounties for the Reserve Forces; mobilisation of Reserves; reinforcement plan) 1979 Jul 4 1993 Aug 5 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1375 Security (Custody contacts of persons accused of security offences, following arrest of Security Service officer Michael Bettaney) 1984 May 1 1984 Jul 13 2014 Jan 3 1
PREM19/3055 Israel (The Prime Minister's meetings with Shimon Peres, leader of the Israeli Labour Party) 1980 May 5 1990 Nov 8 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1724 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: introduction of General Certificate of Education (GCSE); Education Bill; biased teaching and political indoctrination in schools and colleges; city technological colleges; restructuring school education) (Part 8) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Sep 25 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1848 Memorials (Lord Shinwell's memorial service) 1986 May 21 1986 Jun 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1592 Papua New Guinea (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers Sir Julius Chan, May 1981, and Michael Somare, April 1985: meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Apr 2 1985 Apr 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2952 Economic Policy (Pay Review Body reports) (Part 10) 1989 Jan 4 1990 Jan 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3940 Security (Policy on interception of communications)(Part 7) 1988 Feb 29 1992 Aug 20 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3528 Security ​​​​​​​(Irish terrorist activity in Great Britain: other terrorist activity in Great Britain)​​​​​​​ (Part 7) 1990 Nov 1 1991 Oct 17 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/3029 Home Affairs (The Unification Church, the 'Moonies': Prime Minister's meeting with the All Party Group on Cults) 1980 Mar 17 1990 Aug 7 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1817 Israel (Internal situation and relations) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 1 1986 Jan 16 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2696 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: question of German reunification) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 1 1989 Dec 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2697 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the Turkish Prime Minister in Germany) (Part 7) 1987 Jul 1 1989 Feb 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2039 Civil Service (Dispersal) (Part 3) 1982 Sep 9 1988 Mar 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1344 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office; telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; Telecommunications Bill; draft licence for British Telecom (BT)) (Part 7) 1983 Apr 12 1984 Jan 11 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2363 Nationalised Industries (NATO Summits) (Part 1) 1982 Mar 3 1982 Jun 11 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3078 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 25) 1990 Aug 24 1990 Aug 29 Retained under Section 3.4

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