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.

 

File name Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort ascending Pages
PREM19/3536 Security ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's comments on codeword documents)​​​​​​​ 1979 Jun 21 1991 Feb 10 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/1680 Cabinet (Questions of Procedure for Ministers) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 18 1986 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4495 USA (United States foreign policy: USA/European relations) (Part 4) 1990 Apr 25 1993 May 24 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4328 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 16) 1989 Dec 18 1993 Jan 20 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2032 Cambodia (Internal situation: derecognition of Pol Pot regime; Prince Sihanouk) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 16 1988 Nov 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2865 South Africa (Visits to the UK by the South African Foreign Minister, Pik Botha) 1979 Oct 16 1989 Mar 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1773 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; Efficiency Unit report on 'The Use of Value for Money Targets 1985-86', volume II) 1986 Apr 1 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2621 Disasters (Disaster at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, 15 April 1989) (Part 2) 1989 Aug 1 1990 Apr 10 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2793 Parliament (House of Commons procedure: Select Committees) (Part 9) 1987 Feb 4 1989 Mar 7 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3825 Ireland (Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland) (Part 6) 1990 Oct 1 1992 Feb 6 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/4576 Bermuda (UK/Bermuda relations: internal situation) (Part 2) 1987 Jul 1 1994 Oct 6 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3034 Hungary (UK/Hungarian relations: internal situation) (Part 3) 1987 Mar 10 1990 Jun 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1884 Parliament (Parliamentary Maritime Group: Prime Minister's meeting with Sir Edward du Cann, 8 July 1986) 1985 Apr 25 1986 Jul 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2813 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's attendance at the International Democrat Union (IDU) Conference in Tokyo, September 1989, and meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, September 1989: administrative arrangements) 1988 Dec 14 1989 Nov 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3421 Lebanon (Internal situation: UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 9) 1989 Aug 1 1991 Jul 31 Retained Under Sec 3.4

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