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 descending Pages
PREM19/2806 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Robert Crandall, Chairman of American Airlines, 30 October 1989) 1989 Jun 30 1989 Nov 3 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/4458 Sport (Britain's sporting achievements: review of sport 1987-1988: review of sports policy) 1987 Feb 11 1993 Jul 9 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2268 Iraq (Internal situation: Iran-Iraq War) (Part 8) 1987 Sep 1 1987 Dec 18 Retained under Sec 3.4 (reconsideration in 2027)
PREM19/1881 Parliament (Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 5 1986 Apr 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2769 Luxembourg (Prime Minister's visits to Luxembourg, October 1979 and April 1989: policy) 1979 Sep 20 1989 Apr 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4172 Government Buildings (Building of international conference centre on Broad Sanctuary site: restoration of Westminster area; Richmond Yard) (Part 3) 1986 Nov 7 1993 Mar 15 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1741 Environemntal Affairs (Report on leak at Windscale: policy towards Sellafield; environmental pollution; report on incidence of cancer in west Cumbria; report of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment) (Part 1) 1980 Jul 28 1986 Jul 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1393 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations) (Part 2) 1982 Apr 21 1984 May 14 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2922 Civil Service (Dispersal policy: transfer of government work to the regions) (Part 4) 1988 Apr 5 1990 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1742 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: vehicle emissions; acid rain; pollution control; environmental protection) (Part 4) 1985 Jun 18 1986 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1897 Prime Minister (Meeting with members of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee) 1986 Jul 15 1986 Aug 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2132 Elections (Election procedure) (Part 2) 1987 Jan 5 1987 May 12 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/2975 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 45) 1990 Mar 2 1990 Apr 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3260 Defence (Anglo-French nuclear collaboration) (Part 1) 1979 May 31 1991 Apr 13 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/4887 Parliament (House of Lords procedure: televising of House of Lords proceedings) (Part 2) 1983 Feb 3 1994 Dec 23 2018 Dec 28

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