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 classification Pagessort descending
PREM19/4112 Environmental Affairs (The litter problem in the UK: Environmental Protection Bill) (Part 3) 1990 Aug 2 1993 Jun 11 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2801 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM)) 1986 Sep 5 1990 Jan 9 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1989 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail pay; industrial action by NUR and ASLEF; possible line closures; British Rail finances) (Part 8) 1984 Jan 20 1986 Jul 31 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/870 Poland (Intelligence) 1982 Jan 8 1982 Feb 22 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1986 Trade (Commodity policy; International Tin Agreement and International Tin Council; implications of difficulties in tin market for Cornish tin mines; Select Committee report on the tin crisis; renegotiation of international rubber and cocoa agreements) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Oct 29 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2663 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 42) 1989 Jun 1 1989 Sep 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/787 Hong Kong (Intelligence operations) 1982 Sep 1 1982 Sep 10 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2512 Security (Sunday Times articles on the death of Stephen Ward and his association with M15 at the time of the Profumo affair: book by Phillip Knightley and Caroline Kennedy 'An Affair of State') 1982 Nov 29 1982 Nov 29 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1726 Education (Secondary school education: reform of examinations for pupils of 16-plus; school governing bodies; education for economic awareness) (Part 3) 1984 Jun 12 1986 Mar 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4461 Sweden (Prime Minister's meeting with Carl Bildt, Leader of the Swedish Moderate (Conservative) Party, 17 April 1991: includes correspondence on a cancelled meeting with the previous Party Leader, Ulf Adelsohn) 1982 Mar 21 1991 Apr 17 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3261 Defence (Intelligence gathering operations) (Part 5) 1989 Jul 1 1991 Oct 24 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/3871 Pakistan (Internal situation: UK/Pakistan relations) (Part 2) 1987 Aug 1 1992 Oct 27 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3000 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 3) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Mar 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2223 Home Affairs (Parole position of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady) 1985 Feb 19 1987 Mar 24 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/4209 Home Affairs (Report of the Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People: social security benefits and employment and training services for disabled people) (Part 2) 1990 Jul 1 1993 Jan 29 2018 Jul 24

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