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 namesort descending Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/4418 Royal Family (Prince Charles' interest in youth unemployment: The Prince's Trust; The Prince's Youth Business Trust) (Part 1) Begins: 1981 Oct 12 Ends: 1993 Apr 30 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4435 Science and Technology (Intellectual property and innovation: problems faced by private inventors; Intellectual Property Bill) (Part 34) Begins: 1986 Apr 2 Ends: 1993 Dec 22 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4439 Seychelles (UK/Seychelles relations: internal situation) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Jun 28 Ends: 1993 Sep 9 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4440 Singapore (Relations with UK: visits by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew; meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) Begins: 1988 Apr 9 Ends: 1993 Dec 2 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4442 Social Services (Summary of Health and Personal Social Services Accounts, 1979-1980 and 1980-1981: includes correspondence and the consultation document on the Social Work Services Inspectorate in Scotland, 1993) Begins: 1981 Mar 13 Ends: 1993 Mar 30 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4443 Social Sevices (White Paper on the Reform of the Industrial Injuries Scheme) Begins: 1981 Nov 9 Ends: 1993 Mar 29 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4449 Social Services (Uprating of social security benefits) (Part 7) Begins: 1990 Nov 1 Ends: 1993 Feb 25 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4451 Solomon Islands (UK relations with the Solomon Islands) Begins: 1979 Jun 29 Ends: 1993 Aug 9 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4452 South Africa (Visits of South African President, FW de Klerk) (Part 2) Begins: 1990 Feb 28 Ends: 1993 Sep 30 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4454 South Africa (Visits to the UK by Nelson Mandela) Begins: 1990 Mar 5 Ends: 1993 Oct 15 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28 Any docs withheld? 8 File classification: Secret Cab One Pages: 243
PREM19/4455 Spain (Visit by Spanish leader of the Opposition, Felipe Gonzalez and his successor, Jose Maria Aznar) (Part 1) Begins: 1981 Feb 2 Ends: 1993 May 18 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4458 Sport (Britain's sporting achievements: review of sport 1987-1988: review of sports policy) Begins: 1987 Feb 11 Ends: 1993 Jul 9 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4460 Sweden (UK/Swedish relations: internal situation) (Part 1) Begins: 1981 May 12 Ends: 1993 May 7 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
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) Begins: 1982 Mar 21 Ends: 1991 Apr 17 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4463 Togo (UK/Togo relations: internal situation) (Part 1) Begins: 1983 Jan 7 Ends: 1993 Jun 15 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28

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