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
PREM19/1730 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 6) Begins: 1986 Jan 6 Ends: 1986 Mar 26 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4152 Foreign Policy (Strategy on foreign policy and defence issues) (Part 5) Begins: 1990 Feb 5 Ends: 1993 Feb 22 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1387 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing) (Part 1) Begins: 1981 Mar 10 Ends: 1984 Feb 9 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/3421 Lebanon (Internal situation: UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 9) Begins: 1989 Aug 1 Ends: 1991 Jul 31 Date of release: Date of release: Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/3007 Germany (Visits by Chancellor Helmut Kohl to the UK) (Part 10) Begins: 1986 Nov 20 Ends: 1990 Mar 30 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2243 India (UK/Indian relations: Rihand power station) (Part 5) Begins: 1985 Jun 3 Ends: 1987 May 21 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1648 Trade (Export promotion: General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); export credits; contract for second Bosphorus bridge) (Part 4) Begins: 1984 Jun 1 Ends: 1985 Jun 27 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3006 Germany (Visit to London by Count Otto Lambsdorff, Chairman of the FDP (Free Democrats), January 1990) Begins: 1979 May 17 Ends: 1990 Jan 30 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2870 Soviet Union (Visit to the UK by Dr Andrei Sakharov: meeting with the Prime Minister, 23 June 1989) Begins: 1989 Apr 26 Ends: 1989 Jun 23 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2047 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, October 1987) (Part 12) Begins: 1987 Oct 9 Ends: 1987 Oct 28 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2000 USA (US foreign policy: US/European relations) (Part 2) Begins: 1984 Jan 3 Ends: 1986 Dec 30 Date of release: Date of release: Temporarily retained by department
PREM19/2699 Government Buildings (Opening of the Cabinet War Rooms to the public, April 1984) Begins: 1981 May 29 Ends: 1989 Mar 21 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1825 Lebanon (Internal situation: Israeli/Lebanese hostilities; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 7) Begins: 1984 Mar 1 Ends: 1986 Apr 1 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4481 Transport (Road safety) (Part 1) Begins: 1983 Apr 28 Ends: 1993 Jul 28 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1868 Nationalised Industries (Nationalised industry policy; financial control) (Part 10) Begins: 1985 Mar 21 Ends: 1986 May 27 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19

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