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.

 

Link to full file File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1348 Prime Minister (Study on future of welfare state by Lord Vaizey and others; meeting with Prime Minister) 1983 Nov 28 1984 Feb 2 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1697 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 7) 1986 Aug 1 1986 Dec 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3190 Trade (Freeports in the UK) 1983 Feb 25 1990 May 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3706 Energy (Future offshore petroleum licensing: 9th to 14th licensing rounds; oil taxation) (Part 2) 1984 Jan 11 1992 Feb 28 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3113 Posts and Telecommunications ​​​​​​​(Future of the Post Office: sale of Girobank; Telecommunications Duopoly Review) (Part 12) 1989 Jan 23 1990 Jun 20 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3355 Germany ​​​​​​​(Replacement of Federal German Ambassadors in London: Prime Minister's meetings with FRG Ambassadors​​​​​​​)(Part 1) 1979 Jun 19 1991 Feb 19 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2898 Aerospace (Radio equipment for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA): NATO air defence radar procurement) 1979 Nov 21 1990 Jul 20 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1790 Home Affairs (Interim payments for civil legal aid work: criminal legal aid remuneration) (Part 1) 1982 Dec 8 1986 Jul 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2643 Education (General policy on education) (Part 20) 1988 Dec 1 1989 Mar 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1981 Sudan (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Sayed Sadiq al Mahdi: lunch with Prime Minister, 15 October 1986) 1985 Jul 22 1986 Dec 3 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3565 Spain ​​​​​​​(Visits of the Spanish Prime Ministers, Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo and his successor Felipe Gonzalez)​​​​​​​ 1981 Aug 17 1991 May 8 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2740 Industrial Policy​​​​​​​ (Ports: abolition of the National Dock Labour Scheme; industrial action in the ports) (Part 15) 1989 Mar 2 1989 May 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/287 Legal Procedure (Proposed amendment to Act of Settlement 1701) 1980 Jul 8 1980 Oct 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3064 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 17) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Mar 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2331 Morocco (UK/Moroccan relations: visit to UK by King Hassan) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 27 1987 Nov 27 Closed or retained

Pages