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 descending Link to selections
PREM19/2823 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Brussels for NATO Summit, December 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Nov 19 1989 Dec 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3197 Transport ​​​​​​​(British Maritime League: Britain's merchant fleet) 1983 Nov 17 1990 May 23 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1700 Downing Street (Libel action by Richard Holt MP against The Teacher magazine: risk that No. 10 staff may be called to give evidence) 1986 Mar 17 1986 May 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1357 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Group of Eight, representing the construction industry, October 1982; pressure for greater financial assistance from government; complaint about local authority capital underspend) 1982 Jul 22 1983 Nov 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1993 Transport (Policy on roads: White Papers; roads programme) (Part 2) 1981 Dec 16 1986 Mar 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2672 European Policy (Meeting of European Community leaders to discuss the situation in Eastern Europe, Paris, 18 November 1989) 1989 Nov 13 1989 Nov 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3335 Foreign Policy ​​​​​​​(Newsletters from Brian Crozier: 'World Briefing' (privately funded monthly intelligence analysis))(Part 7) 1990 Jan 1 1991 May 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2130 Education (Future of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA)) (Part 4) 1984 Apr 3 1987 Jul 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3676 Economic Policy (National Savings) 1980 Sep 17 1992 Aug 4 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1278 Industrial policy (Wages Councils; review of Fair Wages Resolution 1946) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 26 1982 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2524 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 14) 1986 Dec 9 1987 Aug 28 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/4025 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: Canadian Constitution; British North America Acts) (Part 7) 1990 Aug 4 1993 Sep 8 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3473 Parliament ​​​​​​​(House of Commons procedure: Select Committees)(Part 11) 1990 Jun 5 1991 Jul 15 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1920 Regional Policy (Inner city policy: regeneration of Liverpool and London; Docklands Urban Development Corporation; Archbishop of Canterbury's Commission on Urban Priority Areas) (Part 7) 1985 Aug 8 1986 Jan 31 2015 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

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