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
PREM19/2512 Security (Sunday Times articles on the death of Stephen Ward and his association with M15 at the time of the Profumo affair: book by Phillip Knightley and Caroline Kennedy 'An Affair of State') 1982 Nov 29 1982 Nov 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1726 Education (Secondary school education: reform of examinations for pupils of 16-plus; school governing bodies; education for economic awareness) (Part 3) 1984 Jun 12 1986 Mar 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1383 Security (Access to classified documents by members of Conservative Research Department; case of Tony Hutt, adviser to Secretary of State for the Environment) 1983 Dec 22 1984 Jan 12 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3871 Pakistan Internal situation: UK/Pakistan relations (Part 2) 1987 Aug 1 1992 Oct 27 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2997 Germany (Anglo-German relations) (Part 5) 1989 Sep 1 1990 Sep 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2223 Home Affairs (Parole position of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady) 1985 Feb 19 1987 Mar 24 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1303 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 18) 1983 Nov 4 1984 Jan 13 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3245 Commonwealth ​​​​​​​(Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 1993 and the UK's bid to host it) 1989 Apr 3 1991 Jul 24 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2181 France (Anglo-French relations: French disruption of UK lamb trade; Anglo-French nuclear defence cooperation; Prime Minister Michel Rocard's environmental initiative) (Part 4) 1986 Nov 3 1988 Nov 28 2017 Jan 30
PREM19/2856 Social Services (Uprating of social security benefits) (Part 4) 1987 May 6 1989 Sep 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2036 China (UK/Chinese relations) (Part 4) 1986 Jun 2 1987 Jun 19 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/3386 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 24) 1990 Apr 1 1991 Mar 28 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2024 Broadcasting (Legislation on broadcasting; Green Paper on radio policy; breakfast television) (Part 2) 1982 Oct 21 1988 Apr 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2690 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Australia, Bahrain, Oman, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Dubai, August 1988: policy. Note: With photograph) 1988 Aug 1 1989 May 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3530 Security ​​​​​​​(Reform of the Official Secrets Act)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1988 Nov 1 1991 Nov 21 Temporarily Retained by Department

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