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
PREM19/3510 Qatar (Visits to Britain by the Amir Shaikh Khalifa and the heir apparent Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Sep 6 Ends: 1989 Dec 27 Date of release: 2030-01-01
PREM19/2737 Industrial Policy (Research and development: review of international research and development programmes) (Part 6) Begins: 1989 Jan 17 Ends: 1989 Sep 7 Date of release: 2016-12-30
PREM19/1850 Memorials (WPC Yvonne Fletcher memorial) Begins: 1984 May 1 Ends: 1985 Feb 13 Date of release: 2015-12-30 Any docs withheld? 2
PREM19/1170 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing - defence after repossession) (Part 13) Begins: 1983 Mar 18 Ends: 1984 Jan 23 Date of release: Retained Sec 3.4 File classification: Unknown
PREM19/2922 Civil Service (Dispersal policy: transfer of government work to the regions) (Part 4) Begins: 1988 Apr 5 Ends: 1990 Feb 28 Date of release: 2017-07-20
PREM19/1769 Government Machinery (Advisory Council on Applied Research and Development (ACARD)) (Part 4) Begins: 1986 Mar 5 Ends: 1986 Dec 18 Date of release: 2014-12-30
PREM19/4440 Singapore (Relations with UK: visits by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew; meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) Begins: 1988 Apr 9 Ends: 1993 Dec 2 Date of release: 2018-12-28
PREM19/2468 Royal Family (Career of the Duke of Kent: possibility of his taking on an unpaid non-executive board appointment in the public sector) Begins: 1979 May 23 Ends: 1987 Apr 9 Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/4361 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with the Board of Deputies of British Jews) Begins: 1979 Oct 12 Ends: 1993 Mar 25 Date of release: 2018-12-28
PREM19/3342 Foreign Policy (Summary notes on Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) Assessments) (Part 4) Begins: 1989 Aug 1 Ends: 1991 Feb 22 Date of release: Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2952 Economic Policy (Pay Review Body reports) (Part 10) Begins: 1989 Jan 4 Ends: 1990 Jan 31 Date of release: 2016-12-30
PREM19/2105 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 38) Begins: 1987 Aug 4 Ends: 1988 Mar 31 Date of release: 2016-07-21
PREM19/1604 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Sir Peter Blaker MP and Norman Miscampbell MP, January 1985: loss by Blackpool of Assisted Area Status) Begins: 1984 Nov 28 Ends: 1985 Jan 15 Date of release: 2014-12-30
PREM19/4014 Brazil (UK relations with Brazil: internal situation) (Part 1) Begins: 1982 Sep 30 Ends: 1993 Nov 26 Date of release: 2018-07-24
PREM19/1882 Parliament (Queen's Speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising proceedings of the House of Commons) (Part 6) Begins: 1984 Nov 2 Ends: 1986 Mar 11 Date of release: 2016-07-21 Any docs withheld? 4

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