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 classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2088 Economic Policy (Strategy) (Part 27) 1985 Jan 8 1987 Jul 24 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2942 Economic Policy (Budget) (Part 19) 1989 Dec 6 1990 May 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/132 Zambia (Policy) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Jul 23 Closed
PREM19/3609 Angola (Internal situation: UK/Angola relations)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1988 Sep 1 1992 Dec 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2907 Arts and Amenities (Future of the Victoria and Albert and Science Museums: future of the Theatre Museum and Museum of Childhood; Nehru Gallery Appeal) 1982 Mar 1 1990 Aug 24 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1303 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 18) 1983 Nov 4 1984 Jan 13 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2680 Foreign Policy (Allegations concerning war criminals: Simon Weisenthal Center; War Crimes Inquiry) (Part 1) 1986 Oct 22 1989 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3864 Nationalised Industries (Steel industry: British Steel closures at Ravenscraig and Clydesdale) (Part 16) 1988 Dec 2 1992 Dec 23 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3247 Czechoslovakia ​​​​​​​(Letter to the Prime Minister from Mrs Eva Kanturkova about the arrest and detention of the signatories of Charter 77) 1979 Jun 28 1981 Dec 1 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1685 Civil Service (Pay and pensions: pay dispute; review of early retirement arrangements) (Part 15) 1985 Apr 7 1986 May 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1519 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste) (Part 19 annex) 1985 Aug 1 1985 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2652 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; London Conference on Saving the Ozone Layer, March 1989) (Part 6) 1988 Aug 1 1989 Jan 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3156 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget) (Part 11) 1990 Apr 2 1990 Dec 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4040 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Parliamentary Association: annual conference) 1983 Jul 14 1993 Apr 16 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1396 Tonga (Visits to UK by King and Queen of Tonga, December 1979 and October 1983) 1979 Nov 20 1984 Mar 5 2014 Jan 3

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