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
PREM19/2949 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 44) Begins: 1990 Jan 5 Ends: 1990 Aug 28 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 285
PREM19/3578 Transport (Policy on roads: private finance for roads; Western Orbital Route; motorway service areas)​​​​​​​ (Part 5) Begins: 1990 Jan 5 Ends: 1991 Dec 23 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Confidential Pages: 362
PREM19/2998 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 2a) Begins: 1990 Jan 5 Ends: 1990 Feb 15 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 3 File classification: Secret Pages: 299
PREM19/4009 Australia (UK/Australian relations: internal situation)(Part 3) Begins: 1990 Jan 7 Ends: 1993 Jul 19 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3140 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris, January 1990: administrative arrangements) Begins: 1990 Jan 8 Ends: 1990 Jan 19 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 2 File classification: Confidential Pages: 9
PREM19/2954 Education (General policy on education) (Part 23) Begins: 1990 Jan 9 Ends: 1990 Feb 23 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2958 Education (Student loans) (Part 3) Begins: 1990 Jan 10 Ends: 1990 Apr 4 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 41
PREM19/4662 European Policy (The Economic and Social Committee of the EEC) (Part 2) Begins: 1990 Jan 11 Ends: 1994 Jul 18 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3020 Home Affairs (Sentencing policy: Criminal Justice Bill) (Part 4) Begins: 1990 Jan 12 Ends: 1990 Sep 30 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Confidential Pages: 163
PREM19/3125 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Members of the Conservative Backbench Trade and Industry Committee, 16 January 1990) Begins: 1990 Jan 16 Ends: 1990 Jan 16 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Restricted Pages: 4
PREM19/2935 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems) (Part 8) Begins: 1990 Jan 18 Ends: 1990 Jul 30 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 10 File classification: Secret UK Eyes A Pages: 182
PREM19/4560 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 8) Begins: 1990 Jan 22 Ends: 1994 Feb 4 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3070 Manpower (Special employment measures: Prime Minister's seminar on training, 2 February 1990; future of the Skills Training Agency) (Part 23) Begins: 1990 Jan 23 Ends: 1990 Feb 28 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 329
PREM19/3206 USA (Prime Minister's meeting with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, 5 February 1990) Begins: 1990 Jan 25 Ends: 1990 Mar 27 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 30
PREM19/4006 Argentina (Internal situation/relations) (Part 44) Begins: 1990 Jan 30 Ends: 1993 May 27 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24

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