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
PREM19/4807 Lesotho (UK/ Lesotho relations: internal situation; aid to Lesotho) Begins: 1980 Mar 1 Ends: 1994 Jun 17 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2667 European Policy (European Council meeting, Madrid, June 1989) (Part 34) Begins: 1989 Jun 27 Ends: 1989 Jul 17 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2642 Economic Policy (Prime Minister's meetings with Dr Armand Hammer of Occidental Petroleum) (Part 2) Begins: 1982 Sep 29 Ends: 1989 Dec 18 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/4464 Trade and Industry (Government purchasing policy and Buy British policy) (Part 6) Begins: 1990 Mar 15 Ends: 1993 Mar 8 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4306 Ministers (Correspondence with Members of Parliament) Begins: 1989 Dec 13 Ends: 1991 Nov 26 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2014 Agriculture (Agricultural expenditure) (Part 2) Begins: 1986 Nov 6 Ends: 1987 Nov 11 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1768 Government Buildings (Edward Erdman Surveyors report on the redevelopment of the Bridge Street site) Begins: 1983 Feb 1 Ends: 1986 Feb 28 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1936 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's meeting with industrialists and leading academics, February 1985; the Engineering and Technology Programme) Begins: 1985 Oct 28 Ends: 1986 Mar 7 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3588 USA ​​​​​​​(Visit of William Casey, Director of Central Intelligence in Washington, and his successors)​​​​​​​ Begins: 1981 Feb 12 Ends: 1991 Nov 25 Date of release: Date of release: Retained Under Sec 3.4
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
PREM19/4518 Zimbabwe (Internal situation: UK/Zimbabwe relations; Prime Minister's meetings with Mr Mugabe) (Part 5) Begins: 1987 Mar 24 Ends: 1993 Sep 28 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2266 Iraq (Internal situation: Iran-Iraq War) (Part 6) Begins: 1987 Jul 20 Ends: 1987 Aug 10 Date of release: Date of release: Retained under Sec 3.4 (reconsideration in 2027)
PREM19/3023 Home Affairs (Financial provision after divorce) Begins: 1982 Jan 1 Ends: 1990 Oct 31 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1879 Parliament (House of Commons procedure: replies to Select Committee reports; conflict of interests in the House of Commons) (Part 7) Begins: 1985 Jun 3 Ends: 1986 Jun 16 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/4169 Government Buildings (Allocation of official residences) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 May 7 Ends: 1993 May 28 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24

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