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 ascending Pages
PREM19/2464 Regional Policy (Inner Cities Initiative: action following report by Eric Sorensen; Ministerial and departmental responsibility for coordination and presentation of policy towards inner cities; Kenneth Clarke, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to assume coordination responsibility; designation of further Urban Development Corporations (UDCs); Canary Wharf development by Olympia & York) (Part 12) 1987 Dec 1 1988 Feb 29 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 357
PREM19/3802 Housing (Building societies: Green Paper 'Building Societies: A New Framework'; Building Societies Bill; mortgage rates) (Part 2) 1984 Jul 2 1992 Dec 10 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 210
PREM19/3203 United Nations (Visits to London of Poul Hartling, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (Dec 1980) and his successor Jean-Pierre Hocke (May 1989)) 1980 Sep 19 1990 Jul 6 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 103
PREM19/1186 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 4) 1984 Mar 2 1984 Dec 31 2014 Jan 3 2 Confidential 454
PREM19/1528 Home Affairs (Football hooliganism: behaviour of British football fans abroad; European Cup Final disaster in Brussels, May 1985) (Part 3) 1985 Jun 1 1985 Jun 28 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 309
PREM19/157 Cyprus (Prime Minister’s meeting with Alecos Michaelides, President of Cyprus House of Representatives, November 1980) 1980 Mar 12 1980 Nov 26 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 37
PREM19/2166 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 36) 1987 Apr 22 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 252
PREM19/2906 Angola (Visit to the UK by Angolan Ambassador in Brussels, Fernando Van Dunem, May 1980: possible visits of President dos Santos) 1980 May 8 1990 Mar 18 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 31
PREM19/379 Trade (United States synthetic fibre exports to UK; problems of the UK clothing and textile industry) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 12 1980 Jun 27 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 165
PREM19/2432 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Poland, November 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Feb 1 1988 Nov 6 2016 Jul 21 12 Confidential 260
PREM19/3607 Agriculture (Retail and wholesale milk prices: milk marketing arrangements​​​​​​​) (Part 3) 1984 Jul 30 1992 Jul 27 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 259
PREM19/248 Government Machinery (Special advisers; appointment procedure; pay) (Part 1) 1979 Apr 27 1980 May 2 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 235
PREM19/3571 Trade (Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD): review of the status of the ECGD; privatisation of Insurance Services Group)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1989 Dec 11 1990 Dec 27 2017 Jul 20 Confidenrtial 473
PREM19/3755 European Policy (European Commission: appointment of President, UK Commissioners and Secretariat; allocation of European Commission portfolios) (Part 4) 1988 Sep 27 1992 Jul 31 2053 Jan 1 Closed under FOI excemptions
PREM19/2395 Prime Minister (Cementation contract: Mark Thatcher and the Omanis) (Part 1) 1981 May 4 1988 Mar 9 Retained Closed for 65 years

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