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 Endssort descending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/2422 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Sir Brandon Rhys Williams MP) 1986 Nov 11 1987 Nov 25 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 72
PREM19/2152 European Policy (Community-wide digital cellular radio system: Prime Minister's initiative at European Council meeting in London, December 1986) 1986 Nov 12 1987 Sep 7 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 16
PREM19/2477 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget; national priorities for science and technology) (Part 5) 1986 Nov 14 1987 Aug 13 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 200
PREM19/4353 Portugal (UK/Portugal relations) (Part 2) 1986 Nov 14 1993 Dec 16 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2404 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Archbishop Worlock and Bishop David Sheppard of Liverpool) 1986 Nov 17 1987 Sep 24 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 107
PREM19/3980 USA (Visits to the UK by US Secretaries of Defense, Frank Carlucci and Dick Cheney) (Part 2) 1986 Nov 17 1992 Sep 21 2017 Dec 29 Secret 107
PREM19/2230 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 19) 1986 Nov 18 1987 Sep 9 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2101 Economic Policy (Policy towards privatisation; disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions) (Part 15) 1986 Nov 19 1987 Mar 25 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3007 Germany (Visits by Chancellor Helmut Kohl to the UK) (Part 10) 1986 Nov 20 1990 Mar 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2155 European Policy (European Council meeting, London, December 1986; briefing papers) (Part 23A) 1986 Nov 27 1986 Dec 6 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 295
PREM19/3526 Security ​​​​​​​(Policy on interception of communications)​​​​​​​ (Part 6) 1986 Nov 27 1988 Mar 29 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/3549 Soviet Union ​​​​​​​(Trade relations: controls on strategic exports)​​​​​​​ (Part 4) 1986 Dec 1 1991 Jan 28 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2691 France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand) (Part 6) 1986 Dec 1 1989 Aug 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2164 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 34) 1986 Dec 1 1987 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 247
PREM19/4212 Home Affairs (Interim payments for civil legal aid work: criminal legal aid remuneration) (Part 2) 1986 Dec 1 1993 Jul 7 2018 Jul 24

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