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 classification Pagessort ascending
PREM19/2082 Economic Policy (Correspondence from and meetings with Sir Walter Salomon, private banker) (Part 1) 1979 May 16 1987 Jan 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2735 Industrial Policy (Industrial relations law: Employment Bill; proposals for further reform of trade union law) (Part 14) 1987 Oct 2 1989 Mar 20 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1847 Defence (Higher organisation for defence) 1984 Feb 24 1986 Oct 2 2016 Jul 21 5
PREM19/2927 Defence (Arms control talks and the effect on nuclear weapons) (Part 16) 1989 Jul 1 1990 Feb 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2588 Australia (UK/Australian relations: internal situation) (Part 2) 1986 Jan 3 1989 Dec 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1768 Government Buildings (Edward Erdman Surveyors report on the redevelopment of the Bridge Street site) 1983 Feb 1 1986 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4352 Posts and Telecommunication (Pay negotiations in the Post Office and British Telecom (BT): industrial action) (Part 2) 1987 Sep 14 1993 Aug 17 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2467 Regional Policy (London Docklands Development Corporation: dismissal of John Mills as deputy chairman) 1985 Jul 18 1987 Dec 10 Retained Closed for 51 years
PREM19/4873 Parliament (The Speaker's overseas travel plans) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 31 1994 Mar 24 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2949 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 44) 1990 Jan 5 1990 Aug 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2104 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 37) 1987 Feb 5 1987 Jul 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1603 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Trevor Skeet MP and Sir Gerard Vaughan MP of Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, to discuss CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research): UK participation in high energy particle physics) 1985 Jun 13 1985 Jul 17 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4010 Bahamas (Internal situation/relations) (Part 1) 1982 Jun 16 1993 Feb 2 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2119 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure; national school curriculum; financial delegation and opting out) (Part 12) 1987 Mar 2 1987 Apr 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2759 Legal Procedure (The legal position of the need for the Prime Minister to give evidence in the trial of Ron Brown MP) 1982 Sep 1 1989 Apr 11 2016 Dec 30

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