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
PREM19/1779 Government Machinery (Proposed merger of General Electric Company (GEC) and Plessey: possible referral to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission) Begins: 1986 Jan 17 Ends: 1986 Jun 10 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3805 Industrial Policy (Future of Rover Group) (Part 17) Begins: 1990 Apr 1 Ends: 1992 Mar 11 Date of release: Date of release: Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/4584 Cameroon (UK/Cameroon relations) (Part 2) Begins: 1988 Apr 11 Ends: 1994 Nov 18 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3046 Iraq (UK/Iraq relations) (Part 2) Begins: 1990 Apr 2 Ends: 1990 Jul 17 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2790 New Zealand (Visits to the UK of New Zealand Leaders of the Opposition: David Lange and Jim Bolger) Begins: 1984 Jan 9 Ends: 1989 Aug 7 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2893 Venezuela (Possible visit of the Venezuelan President-elect, Jaime Lusinchi: internal situation) Begins: 1983 Nov 28 Ends: 1989 Sep 12 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4214 Home Affairs (Disposal of nuclear waste) (Part 2) Begins: 1986 Feb 1 Ends: 1993 Jun 29 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1904 Prime Minister (Meetings with the National Pensioners Conventions, February 1982 to March 1986) (part 1) Begins: 1979 May 30 Ends: 1986 Mar 27 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3609 Angola (Internal situation: UK/Angola relations)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) Begins: 1988 Sep 1 Ends: 1992 Dec 31 Date of release: Date of release: Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1751 European Policy (European Council meeting, London, December 1986) (Part 23) Begins: 1985 Jul 15 Ends: 1986 Nov 28 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1623 Security (Security of Buckingham Palace grounds: incident on 9 July 1982; review of law of trespass) Begins: 1981 Aug 20 Ends: 1985 May 9 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2150 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 18) Begins: 1987 Oct 1 Ends: 1988 Mar 30 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2986 European Policy (Calls on the Prime Minister by the President of the European Parliament) Begins: 1979 Oct 30 Ends: 1990 Mar 1 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4477 Transport (East London river crossing) Begins: 1984 May 1 Ends: 1993 Jul 7 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2736 Industrial Policy (Information technology (IT): Government policy towards IT) (Part 5) Begins: 1987 Feb 2 Ends: 1989 Mar 7 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30

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