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
PREM19/2673 European Policy (European Convention on Human Rights) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 6 1989 Sep 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2666 European Policy (European Council meeting, Madrid, June 1989) (Part 33) 1989 Jun 23 1989 Jun 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3329 Ex-Prime Ministers ​​​​​​​(Policy on requests by former Prime Ministers for access to papers from their administration)(Part 1) 1974 Apr 1 1991 Jan 24 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3756 Falkland Islands (Future administration of the Falkland Islands) 1983 Oct 1 1992 Jul 13 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2171 Fiji (UK/Fiji relations; visits to UK by Ratu Sir Kamisese Maru, April 1981, April 1983 and March 1988) 1981 Mar 24 1988 Aug 22 2016 Jul 21 7 Secret 185
PREM19/2990 Finland (Prime Minister's visit to Helsinki to attend European Democratic Union (EDU) conference, August 1990) 1990 Aug 13 1990 Sep 10 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3331 Finland ​​​​​​​(UK/Finland relations: appointment of Prime Ministers; visits of President and Prime Ministers of Finland)(Part 1) 1979 Jun 1 1991 Dec 3 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3757 Fishing Industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy: proposed decommissioning scheme for the UK fishing industry) (Part 6) 1985 Jul 3 1992 Jun 25 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2991 Food (Food safety) (Part 3) 1989 Jul 3 1990 Apr 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3332 Food ​​​​​​​(Food safety)(Part 4) 1990 May 1 1991 Aug 9 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2177 Foreign Policy (Bilateral meetings with the Foreign Secretary) (Part 1) 1983 Sep 5 1987 Sep 28 2016 Jul 21 2 Top Secret 203
PREM19/1500 Foreign Policy (Briefing for officials for Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) 1985 Apr 4 1985 Apr 13 2014 Dec 30 1 Confidential 203
PREM19/1499 Foreign Policy (Briefing for Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) 1985 Apr 4 1985 Apr 13 2014 Dec 30 Secret 318
PREM19/3758 Foreign Policy (Capital punishment in the Dependent Territories​​​​​​​) 1980 Aug 1 1992 Mar 27 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2687 Foreign Policy (Correspondence with and about George Soros: economic proposals concerning the Soviet Union and Poland) 1987 Sep 3 1989 Sep 8 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 108

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