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
PREM19/2919 Cabinet (Cabinet Committee structure and membership) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 19 1990 Jul 20 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1744 Environmental Affairs (World Conservation Strategy: 'Conservation and Development - the British Approach') 1980 Jun 25 1986 May 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2134 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power; the Sizewell Report) (Part 10) 1986 Jun 2 1987 Jan 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2977 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 47) 1990 Jul 2 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4819 Malawi (UK/Malawi relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1983 May 20 1994 May 23 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2721 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: industrial action by the Prison Officers Association; private sector involvement in the remand system) (Part 4) 1987 Nov 2 1989 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2081 Economic Policy (Contracting-out terms for occupational pension schemes 1983-1988) 1982 Feb 17 1985 Sep 1 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/4012 Belize (Internal situation/relations: visits to UK by Manuel Esquivel, Prime Minister of Belize) (Part 1) 1979 Dec 12 1993 Oct 29 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2926 Civil Service (Speeches by the Heads of the Civil Service, Sir Robert Armstrong and Sir Robin Butler) 1985 Jun 14 1990 Oct 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3968 Treasury (Secret Vote cash limits: Intelligence Agencies estimates) 1990 Oct 10 1992 Dec 1 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3329 Ex-Prime Ministers (Policy on requests by former Prime Ministers for access to papers from their administration) (Part 1) 1974 Apr 1 1991 Jan 24 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/4597 Costa Rica (UK/Costa Rican relations) (Part 1) 1980 May 5 1994 Feb 7 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2672 European Policy (Meeting of European Community leaders to discuss the situation in Eastern Europe, Paris, 18 November 1989) 1989 Nov 13 1989 Nov 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3536 Security ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's comments on codeword documents)​​​​​​​ 1979 Jun 21 1991 Feb 10 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/1680 Cabinet (Questions of Procedure for Ministers) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 18 1986 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30

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