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
PREM19/3489 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meeting with Dr Cornelio Sommaruga, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, 7 February 1991) 1990 Aug 11 1991 Feb 7 2017 Jul 20
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
PREM19/2756 Legal Procedure (Review of the legal profession: legal reforms) (Part 3) 1989 Apr 4 1989 Nov 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1879 Parliament (House of Commons procedure: replies to Select Committee reports; conflict of interests in the House of Commons) (Part 7) 1985 Jun 3 1986 Jun 16 2016 Jul 21
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
PREM19/2892 USA (Prime Minister's visits to Washington, November 1988 and November 1989) (Part 8) 1987 Jul 24 1989 Nov 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3601 Foreign Policy​​​​​​​ (Summary notes on Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) Assessments) (Part 3) 1988 Jan 8 1989 Jul 27 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/1935 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's seminar and reception for industrial designers, January 1982)(Part 1) 1981 Oct 19 1985 Dec 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1300 Libya (UK/Libyan relations; threat to Libyan dissidents in UK; shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau, 17 April 1984; severance of diplomatic relations) (Part 2A) 1984 Apr 17 1984 May 2 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2625 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 41) 1989 Jan 10 1989 May 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3170 Social Services ​​​​​​​(Uprating of social security benefits) (Part 6) 1990 Jun 8 1990 Oct 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3769 Gibraltar (Policy towards Gibraltar) (Part 6) 1986 Dec 3 1992 Mar 16 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3178 Soviet Union (Soviet leadership: major political speeches) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 2 1990 Jun 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2488 Security (Correspondence with Lieutenant Colonel Robert Butler) 1983 Apr 15 1988 Mar 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1702 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 35) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30

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