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
PREM19/210 Energy (European Community energy issues; research projects; oil import targets; coking coal scheme; projects in the hydrocarbons sector) 1979 May 11 1980 Dec 12 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 131
PREM19/2731 Housing​​​​​​​ (Reform of housing benefits) 1980 Jun 24 1989 May 4 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2550 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy) (Part 4) 1986 Aug 18 1987 Oct 29 2016-07-2016 Restricted 102
PREM19/2026 Broadcasting (Independent review of the radio frequency spectrum between 30 and 960 MHz: Merriman Report) 1982 Apr 26 1988 Jul 29 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2691 France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand) (Part 6) 1986 Dec 1 1989 Aug 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1821 Japan (Visits to the UK by Japanese Foreign Ministers, Masoyashi Ito and Shintaro Abe) 1981 Aug 24 1986 Oct 22 2014 Dec 30 Secret 64
PREM19/1478 European Policy (European Community Budget: developments in the European Community; Dooge Committee on European Community institutions) (Part 28) 1984 Nov 1 1985 Feb 27 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 424
PREM19/1143 Statistics (Introduction of new Tax and Price Index (TPI) to be published alongside Retail Price Index (RPI)) 1979 Jun 21 1983 Aug 12 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 174
PREM19/130 Vietnam (Vietnamese boat people) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 15 1979 Jul 19 2009 Dec 30 Secret 304
PREM19/807 Industrial policy (UK newsprint production: closure of Bowater's mill at Ellesmere Port) 1980 Jul 28 1982 Dec 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 254
PREM19/471 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Schmidt in Bonn, November 1980 and November 1981: Anglo-German Summits) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 4 1981 Nov 18 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 338
PREM19/3090 Ministers (Presence of Ministers in the House of Commons) 1990 Apr 11 1990 Apr 18 2017 Jul 20 Unclassified 6
PREM19/2405 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Dennis Canavan MP, 17 December 1987) 1984 Sep 11 1988 Jan 11 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 62
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

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