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 Beginssort descending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/4435 Science and Technology (Intellectual property and innovation: problems faced by private inventors; Intellectual Property Bill) (Part 34) 1986 Apr 2 1993 Dec 22 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2241 Immigration (Immigration Rules) (Part 3) 1986 Apr 7 1987 Oct 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2389 Police (Police policy) (Part 2) 1986 Apr 8 1988 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21 2 Secret 263
PREM19/3225 Broadcasting (Party political broadcasting) (Part 3) 1986 Apr 9 1991 Sep 12 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 87
PREM19/2218 Home Affairs (Home Secretary's seminar on crime prevention, June 1986, and subsequent action) (Part 2) 1986 Apr 10 1987 Jul 24 2016 Jul 21 1 Confidential 115
PREM19/1913 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to The Hague for European Council meeting, June 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 Apr 11 1986 Jul 7 2016 Feb 19 Confidential 98
PREM19/2052 Defence (Armed Forces pay; Service doctors' and dentists' pay; London weighting) (Part 3) 1986 Apr 11 1987 Jul 16 2015 Dec 30 Personal and Confidential 70
PREM19/3678 Economic Policy (Meetings of National Economic Development Council (NEDC): abolition of NEDC and National Economic Development Office (NEDO)) (Part 14) 1986 Apr 14 1992 Jun 23 2017 Dec 29 Secret 243
PREM19/1731 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 7) 1986 Apr 15 1986 Oct 2 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1831 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; United States response to Libyan terrorism) (Part 5) 1986 Apr 17 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30 Retained under Section 3:4
PREM19/1832 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations) (Part 6) 1986 Apr 17 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30 Retained under Section 3:4
PREM19/2484 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing at) (Part 5) 1986 Apr 17 1988 May 27 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1747 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): reform of CAP; Green Pound; agricultural land and rural employment) (Part 14) 1986 Apr 17 1986 Nov 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3656 Disasters (Chernobyl: Soviet nuclear accident, 26 April 1986) (Part 1) 1986 Apr 29 1992 Sep 21 2017 Dec 29 9 Top Secret 299
PREM19/1802 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland) (Part 11) 1986 May 1 1986 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 Secret 239

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