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 Endssort ascending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3516 Royal Family ​​​​​​​(Civil List)(Part 6) 1990 Jul 2 1991 Dec 12 2032 Jan 1
PREM19/3618 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy: television licence fees; future of the BBC) (Part 12) 1990 Jul 2 1992 Aug 28 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2969 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Environment White Paper) (Part 17) 1990 Jul 2 1990 Aug 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2984 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS): economic and monetary union) (Part 8) 1990 Jul 1 1990 Oct 31
PREM19/3644 Defence (Defence sales)​​​​​​​ (Part 13) 1990 Jul 1 1992 Dec 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3390 Housing ​​​​​​​(Housing policy)(Part 17) 1990 Jul 1 1991 Jul 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3934 Security (Appointment of successors to the Director General of the Secret Intelligence Service and Director General of the Security Service: Prime Minister's visit to the Security Service; Security Service accommodation)(Part 2) 1990 Jul 1 1992 Jul 17 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/3580 Treasury ​​​​​​​(Review of policy on film finance: Prime Minister's seminar for the British film industry, 15 June 1990)​​​​​​​ (Part 1) 1990 Jul 1 1991 Nov 14 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3781 Government Machinery (The tourism industry: Government support for tourism; 'Tourism in the UK: Realising the Potential'​​​​​​​) (Part 2) 1990 Jun 30 1992 Mar 20 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3611 Arts and Amenities ​​​​​​​(Charitable trust for works of art in the Palace of Westminster) 1990 Jun 28 1991 Mar 27 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3398 Iraq ​​​​​​​(Exports to Iraq (Scott Inquiry))(Part 2) 1990 Jun 21 1991 Jun 30 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2981 European Policy (European Council meeting, Dublin, June 1990: briefing papers) 1990 Jun 19 1990 Jun 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3787 Home Affairs (Animal welfare matters)​​​​​​​ (Part 2) 1990 Jun 13 1992 Feb 27 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3170 Social Services ​​​​​​​(Uprating of social security benefits) (Part 6) 1990 Jun 8 1990 Oct 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3237 Commonwealth ​​​​​​​(Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Harare, Zimbabwe, October 1991)(Part 17) 1990 Jun 7 1991 Oct 9 2017 Jul 20

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