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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1787 Home Affairs (Review of restrictions on shopping hours and Sunday trading: Shops Act 1950) (Part 1) 1981 Nov 11 1986 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/161 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1980 Jan 17 2010 Dec 30 Secret 129
PREM19/1444 Defence (Ballistic missile defence: United States Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI); UK participation in research programme) (Part 2) 1985 Jan 2 1985 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/3247 Czechoslovakia ​​​​​​​(Letter to the Prime Minister from Mrs Eva Kanturkova about the arrest and detention of the signatories of Charter 77) 1979 Jun 28 1981 Dec 1 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3846 Local Government (Water industry: structural change; privatisation of the water authorities; consultation paper 'Using Water Wisely') (Part 7) 1989 Sep 4 1992 Nov 23 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2302 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 34) 1987 Dec 3 1988 Mar 31 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 302
PREM19/3017 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; value for money seminars; Next Steps initiative) (Part 32) 1989 Nov 6 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1051 Home affairs (Contingency arrangements for dealing with a serious Thames flood) 1979 Jul 25 1983 Dec 22 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 41
PREM19/714 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 18) 1982 Jul 19 1982 Oct 29 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 312
PREM19/2493 Security (Links between Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and other terrorist organisations: People's Front for the Liberation of Palestine operations in London) 1979 Sep 28 1988 Mar 17 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1707 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 15) 1985 Dec 2 1986 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 448
PREM19/1364 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with delegation of West German industrialists, April 1984) 1982 Sep 16 1984 Jan 24 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/422 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 17) 1981 Nov 13 1981 Dec 8 2011 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/3389 Hong Kong (Prime Minister's meetings and correspondence with Sir Yue-Kong Pao, shipping magnate) (Part 3) 1986 Nov 4 1991 Oct 15 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3117 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Hartley Booth and Lew Wasserman: British Urban Development Ltd; proposed MCA theme park and film studio project at Rainham, Essex) 1989 May 15 1990 May 31 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 381

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