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
PREM19/3005 Germany (Visits to the UK by Richard von Weizsacker, President of the Federal Republic of Germany) 1986 Feb 3 1990 Oct 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2870 Soviet Union (Visit to the UK by Dr Andrei Sakharov: meeting with the Prime Minister, 23 June 1989) 1989 Apr 26 1989 Jun 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2049 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting on South Africa in London, August 1986) 1986 Jul 4 1987 Jan 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1229 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 25) 1984 Jun 1 1984 Jun 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2707 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; value for money seminars; Next Steps initiative) (Part 30) 1989 Apr 17 1989 Jun 3 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3540 Social Services ​​​​​​​(Assistance with fuel: severe winter payments)​​​​​​​ (Part 2) 1986 Mar 1 1991 Jun 14 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2030 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; subscription television; independent television producers; external television broadcasting; broadcasting legislation) (Part 5) 1987 Sep 8 1987 Dec 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2699 Government Buildings (Opening of the Cabinet War Rooms to the public, April 1984) 1981 May 29 1989 Mar 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3650 Defence (Military uses of laser technology in space: United States Strategic Defence Initiative; Global Protection Against Limited Strikes (GPALS))​​​​​​​ (Part 6) 1989 Jun 14 1992 Sep 23 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1867 Nationalised Industries (Pay of Chairmen and Board members) (Part 3) 1984 Jun 1 1986 Apr 29 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2543 Soviet Union (Relations between the Soviet Union and India) 1987 Jun 10 1987 Jun 17 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1748 European Policy (European Community Budget: HM Government options towards illegal Community budget for 1986) (Part 31) 1985 Dec 4 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3233 Cayman Island ​​​​​​​(Relations with UK: internal situation) 1988 Sep 14 1990 Dec 17 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3232 Cars ​​​​​​​(Use of the Government Car Service)(Part 2) 1989 Sep 5 1991 Dec 17 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3829 Israel (Visits to the UK by Israeli Prime Ministers, Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin) (Part 2) 1990 Oct 1 1992 Dec 16 2017 Dec 29

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