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
PREM19/4093 Economic Policy (Covenanted charitable donations by close companies: taxation of charities) (Part 2) 1989 Dec 21 1993 Oct 19 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3639 Deaths (Deaths of members of the Royal Family and former Prime Ministers) 1979 Jun 22 1992 Jun 16 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2995 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visits to Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Switzerland, 16-23 September 1990: briefing) 1990 Sep 12 1990 Sep 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1731 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 7) 1986 Apr 15 1986 Oct 2 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1862 National Health (Disposal of site of St George's Hospital, Hyde Park Corner: negotiations with Grosvenor Estate for sale of Crown portion) 1982 Jan 21 1986 Apr 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1600 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with John Blackburn MP about closure of Round Oak Steelworks, Dudley) 1982 Dec 4 1983 Mar 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2107 Economic Policy (Public sector pay policy; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 13) 1984 Oct 4 1987 Jul 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2961 El Salvador (Internal situation: UK/El Salvador relations) (Part 1) 1981 Dec 1 1990 Jan 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4443 Social Sevices (White Paper on the Reform of the Industrial Injuries Scheme) 1981 Nov 9 1993 Mar 29 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3515 Royal Family ​​​​​​​(Career of Prince Michael of Kent) 1980 Feb 1 1991 Sep 19 2058 Jan 1
PREM19/1869 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 8) 1985 Feb 4 1986 Jan 31 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1824 Lebanon (United States concerns) 1983 Sep 15 1986 Apr 23 Reconsideration in 2025
PREM19/2703 Government Machinery (Monopolies and mergers) (Part 3) 1988 Mar 7 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1699 Disasters (Ethiopian famine relief) 1984 Oct 25 1986 Jan 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1700 Downing Street (Libel action by Richard Holt MP against The Teacher magazine: risk that No. 10 staff may be called to give evidence) 1986 Mar 17 1986 May 22 2014 Dec 30

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