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 Beginssort ascending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3075 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 22) 1990 Aug 7 1990 Aug 12 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/3760 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 12) 1990 Aug 7 1992 Apr 29 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3844 Local Government (Planning controls: Planning and Compensation Bill; Sainsbury Group on Planning Issues; planning policies and the South East​​​​​​​) (Part 8) 1990 Aug 6 1992 Jun 18 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3652 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems) (Part 9) 1990 Aug 2 1992 Feb 28 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3074 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 21) 1990 Aug 2 1990 Aug 6 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/3628 Civil Service (Civil Service manpower: early retirement​​​​​​​) (Part 5) 1990 Aug 1 1992 Nov 10 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3369 Government Machinery ​​​​​​​(Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: Next Steps initiative; future of Deregulation Initiative)(Part 35) 1990 Aug 1 1991 Jan 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3713 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 20) 1990 Jul 18 1992 Dec 31 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3545 South Africa (UK/South Africa relations: internal situation) (Part 23) 1990 Jul 11 1990 Dec 28 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3124 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meeting with Margaret Harrison, Director of Home-Start, 13 July 1990) 1990 Jul 6 1990 Sep 17 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3509 Post and Telecommunications ​​​​​​​(Future of the Post Office: Telecommunications Duopoly Review)(Part 13) 1990 Jul 6 1991 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3784 Government Machinery (Machinery of government changes) (Part 8) 1990 Jul 2 1992 Feb 28 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3067 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 20) 1990 Jul 2 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2977 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 47) 1990 Jul 2 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3860 Nationalised Industries (Financial position of the coal industry: coal strategy; British Coal privatisation; colliery closures) (Part 22) 1990 Jul 2 1992 Jan 31 2017 Dec 29

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