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?sort descending File classification Pages
PREM19/1861 National Health (Prime Minister's dinner for Regional Health Authority Chairmen, 25 September 1986) 1986 Jul 15 1986 Nov 3 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2537 Soviet Union (Arrest and exile to Gorky of Andrei Sakharov and his wife Yelena Bonner: Prime Minister's meetings with Mrs Bonner and other family members) 1980 Jan 23 1987 Jan 5 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1742 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: vehicle emissions; acid rain; pollution control; environmental protection) (Part 4) 1985 Jun 18 1986 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/49 Energy (UK/Australia nuclear safeguards agreement) 1979 Jun 27 1979 Jul 12 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 42
PREM19/1399 Transport (Inquiry into Archway Road Scheme (North London); withdrawal of nominated inspector Sir Michael Giddings following harassment of him and his family) 1984 Feb 27 1984 Nov 19 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 43
PREM19/1063 Industrial policy (Future of Times newspapers: sale by Thomson Organisation; purchase by Rupert Murdoch's News International) 1979 Oct 16 1983 Jul 18 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 111
PREM19/726 Economic policy (Premature disclosure of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) economic forecast data concerning the UK; Prime Minister's protest) 1980 Dec 22 1982 Mar 17 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 30
PREM19/391 Arts and amenities (Future of the Wernher Collection at Luton Hoo) 1980 May 20 1981 Feb 2 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 31
PREM19/4803 Labour Party (The Labour Party's strategy and policy: record of taxation; defence policy) 1983 Nov 21 1994 Oct 6 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3839 Legal Procedures (Courts and Legal Services Bill: legal services in Northern Ireland; use of the private sector for government legal work; conveyancing; rights of audience of employed barristers) (Part 4) 1983 May 3 1992 Nov 27 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 191
PREM19/2307 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 8) 1987 Aug 3 1987 Nov 12 2016 Feb 19 Secret 262
PREM19/3028 Home Affairs (The campaign against and the use of chemical herbicides, especially 2,4,5-T: pesticide policy) 1980 Jun 1 1990 Apr 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2277 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland: force levels) (Part 23) 1987 Nov 1 1988 Mar 31 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1660 USA (Prime Minister's visit to New York and the United Nations, October 1985) (Part 5) 1985 Apr 15 1985 Oct 15 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 398
PREM19/1319 National health (Nurses pay: review body for nurses and related groups) (Part 2) 1982 Feb 1 1984 Apr 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 221

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