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
PREM19/2100 Economic Policy (Policy on small firms; Local Enterprise Agencies) (Part 6) 1985 May 1 1987 Jan 2 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2953 Economic Policy (Venture capital) 1981 Jun 8 1990 May 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3939 Security (Operational file) 1990 Mar 15 1992 Sep 18 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/4682 Gambia (UK/Gambia relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1981 Jul 30 1994 Aug 1 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2697 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the Turkish Prime Minister in Germany) (Part 7) 1987 Jul 1 1989 Feb 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2040 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy; financial management; multi-department review of budgeting; equal opportunities in employment) (Part 20) 1986 Oct 3 1987 Mar 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3078 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 25) 1990 Aug 24 1990 Aug 29 Retained under Sec 3.4 (reconsideration in 2027)
PREM19/3079 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 26) 1990 Aug 30 1990 Aug 31 24 Jul 2018
PREM19/4451 Solomon Islands (UK relations with the Solomon Islands) 1979 Jun 29 1993 Aug 9 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2896 Disasters (Fire at King's Cross Underground Station, 18 November 1989) 1987 Nov 19 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1787 Home Affairs (Review of restrictions on shopping hours and Sunday trading: Shops Act 1950) (Part 1) 1981 Nov 11 1986 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2639 Economic Policy (Correspondence with Sir Emmanuel Kaye on capital taxation) 1979 Oct 3 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2740 Industrial Policy​​​​​​​ (Ports: abolition of the National Dock Labour Scheme; industrial action in the ports) (Part 15) 1989 Mar 2 1989 May 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/4923 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Jeffrey Sterling to discuss shipping, the UK economy and other issues) 1989 Jan 9 1994 Jul 13 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2325 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 15) 1986 Jun 3 1987 Feb 23 2017 Dec 29

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