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 classification Pagessort ascending Link to selections
PREM19/364 Security (Policy on interception) (Part 2) 1980 Mar 21 1980 Apr 11 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2511 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 12) 1988 Oct 5 1988 Dec 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1725 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: city technology colleges; Education Bill; academic tenure; education reform; implications of removing responsibility for education from Local Education Authorities (LEAs); future of polytechnics) (Part 9) 1986 Oct 1 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1382 Security (Oleg Bitov, Soviet defector; Bitov's return to Moscow) 1983 Oct 21 1984 Sep 17 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3877 Parliament Forthcoming Parliamentary affairs (Part 4) 1980 Sep 1 1992 May 25 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2994 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visits to Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Switzerland, 16-23 September 1990) 1990 Aug 17 1990 Oct 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2222 Home Affairs (Monopolies and Mergers Commission Report on proposed takeover of House of Fraser by Lonrho) 1987 Jan 12 1987 Oct 28 Retained Closed for 40 years
PREM19/3246 Commonwealth ​​​​​​​(Commonwealth Security Conference, London, June 1991) 1990 Nov 13 1991 Jan 14 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2849 Security (Leak to The Observer relating to Westland plc) 1985 Dec 24 1989 Jun 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2035 Chad (Internal situation) 1981 Nov 12 1987 Oct 28 2016 Jul 21
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
PREM19/2023 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; cable systems and their effect on broadcasting policy) (Part 6) 1986 Mar 6 1988 Jun 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2689 Foreign Policy (Policy towards bilateral summits) 1988 Mar 28 1989 Apr 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/284 Ireland (Intelligence on Irish terrorists in the Republic) 1979 Oct 10 1980 Apr 15 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/3531 Security ​​​​​​​(Miscellaneous leaks and security breaches)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1989 Jan 10 1991 Apr 26 Retained Under Sec 3.4

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