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 classification Pagessort ascending
PREM19/1939 Science and Technology (Intellectual property rights and innovation; future of Patent Office; patents for pharmaceutical industry) (Part 3) Begins: 1985 Jul 2 Ends: 1986 Mar 26 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2628 Economic Policy (The 1989 Budget) (Part 18) Begins: 1988 Apr 5 Ends: 1989 Nov 22 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4363 Prime Minister (Request from Mr Seymour Reich, President of B'nai B'rith International, for a meeting with the Prime Minister: Middle East peace process and Soviet Jewry) Begins: 1989 Jul 31 Ends: 1992 Nov 10 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2489 Security (Distribution of the Prime Minister's diary) Begins: 1981 May 13 Ends: 1988 May 24 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1703 Economic policy (Policy towards privatisation: disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions; flotation of Royal Ordnance PLC; Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) picketing at DHSS Huyton Local Office over privatised cleaning contract) (Part 13) Begins: 1985 Dec 2 Ends: 1986 Jun 27 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4737 Home Affairs (Juvenile offenders) (Part 1) Begins: 1980 Jun 2 Ends: 1994 Jan 31 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3939 Security (Operational file) Begins: 1990 Mar 15 Ends: 1992 Sep 18 Date of release: Date of release: Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2969 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Environment White Paper) (Part 17) Begins: 1990 Jul 2 Ends: 1990 Aug 30 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2133 Elections (Election procedure) (Part 3) Begins: 1987 May 13 Ends: 1988 Mar 31 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1621 Security (Publication of 'British Intelligence and Covert Action' by Jonathan Bloch and Patrick Fitzgerald: security issues; Bloch's UK refugee residency status; protection of intelligence identities) Begins: 1983 Mar 9 Ends: 1985 Oct 28 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4068 Djibouti (UK/Djibouti relations) Begins: 1986 Aug 6 Ends: 1993 Sep 19 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2787 NATO (NATO's 30th, 35th and 40th anniversaries) Begins: 1979 May 10 Ends: 1989 Mar 23 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/863 Parliament (Queen's speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising the State Opening of Parliament) (Part 4) Begins: 1981 Oct 26 Ends: 1982 Oct 26 Date of release: Date of release: Closed until 2023-01-01 File classification: Unknown
PREM19/2807 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with William Schreyer, Chairman of Merrill Lynch, 6 July 1989) Begins: 1988 Jun 6 Ends: 1989 Jul 6 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2646 Education (Nursery education of children under 5) Begins: 1979 Dec 6 Ends: 1989 Apr 17 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30

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