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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/517 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 7) 1981 Nov 2 1981 Dec 1 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 134
PREM19/831 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 8) 1981 Dec 2 1982 Jan 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 171
PREM19/832 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 9) 1982 Jan 11 1982 Apr 14 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 289
PREM19/833 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Parts 10 and 11) 1982 Apr 16 1982 Jun 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 254
PREM19/1559 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 25) 1985 Jan 1 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 425
PREM19/1560 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 26) 1985 Mar 1 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 369
PREM19/1561 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 27) 1985 Jun 3 1985 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 380
PREM19/1562 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 28) 1985 Aug 1 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 404
PREM19/91 Local government (Remuneration of local councillors) 1979 Jul 23 1979 Nov 19 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 12
PREM19/1086 Local government (Southwark Council's blacklisting of contractors involved in work at Greenham Common: representation from Lord Harris of Greenwich) 1983 Feb 16 1983 Mar 24 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 9
PREM19/830 Local government (The water industry: structural change; constitution of Welsh Water Authority; review of land drainage and flood protection) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 31 1982 Oct 4 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 240
PREM19/291 Local Government (Waste in local authority expenditure) 1979 May 8 1980 May 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 248
PREM19/1085 Local government (Water charges: Prime Minister's interest in measures to control rate of increase) 1981 Feb 13 1983 Apr 12 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 36
PREM19/1563 Local Government (Water industry: structural change; financing arrangements; Water Bill) (Part 2) 1982 Nov 15 1985 Nov 26 2014 Dec 30 Secret 175
PREM19/2769 Luxembourg (Prime Minister's visits to Luxembourg, October 1979 and April 1989: policy) 1979 Sep 20 1989 Apr 18 2016 Dec 30

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