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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2169 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 39) 1988 Jun 1 1988 Sep 29 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 168
PREM19/2170 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 40) 1988 Oct 3 1989 Feb 27 2016 Jul 21 Confidential and Personal 269
PREM19/2662 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community; Cabinet Office brief on Community competence) (Part 41) 1989 Mar 1 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 387
PREM19/2143 European Policy (European Community telecommunications: Research for an Advanced Communications Environment (RACE)) 1985 Mar 19 1986 Nov 24 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 22
PREM19/3736 European Policy (European Council meeting in Edinburgh, 11-12 December 1992) (Part 41) 1990 May 21 1992 Apr 28 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1490 European Policy (European Council meeting, Brussels, March 1985) (Part 20) 1985 Mar 7 1985 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 718
PREM19/2157 European Policy (European Council meeting, Copenhagen, December 1987) (Part 27) 1986 Sep 22 1987 Dec 14 2016 Dec 30 5 Secret 331
PREM19/2158 European Policy (European Council meeting, Copenhagen, December 1987: briefing papers) (Part 27A) 1987 Dec 1 1987 Dec 5 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 309
PREM19/2154 European Policy (European Council meeting, London, December 1986) (Part 23A) 1986 Dec 1 1987 Jan 19 2016 Nov 7 Confidential 439
PREM19/2155 European Policy (European Council meeting, London, December 1986; briefing papers) (Part 23A) 1986 Nov 27 1986 Dec 6 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 295
PREM19/2153 European Policy (European Council meeting, London, November 1981: meetings with Social Partners - European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and European Community Employers' Association (UNICE)) 1981 Oct 29 1987 Mar 18 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 120
PREM19/1491 European Policy (European Council meeting, Milan, June 1985) (Part 21) 1985 May 10 1985 Jun 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 276
PREM19/1492 European Policy (European Council meeting, Milan, June 1985) (Part 22) 1985 Jun 27 1985 Dec 6 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 247
PREM19/2161 European Policy (European Council meeting, Rhodes, December 1988) (Part 30) 1988 Oct 24 1988 Dec 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/220 European Policy (European Council Meeting, Venice, 12-13 June 1980) (Part 4) 1980 Jan 14 1980 Jun 19 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 181

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