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 Titlesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/1785 Home Affairs (Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on the proposed take-over of House of Fraser by Lonrho) (Part 2) 1986 Jan 15 1986 Dec 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2229 Home Affairs (Mr Justice May's Inquiry into the UK Prison Service; Prison Service pay and dispute; appointment of a Prisons Inspectorate; prison population) 1979 Oct 4 1986 Apr 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1522 Home Affairs (National Heritage Fund: taxations arrangements; review of fiscal provisions) 1979 Aug 23 1985 Oct 24 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 111
PREM19/1792 Home Affairs (Obscenity legislation (video nasties): meetings with Mary Whitehouse) 1983 May 18 1986 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 266
PREM19/483 Home affairs (Oil refineries in Canvey Island and Thurrock area: industrial hazards) 1979 Apr 11 1981 Mar 24 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 155
PREM19/1523 Home Affairs (Open Government: disclosure of official information) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1985 Oct 16 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 256
PREM19/252 Home Affairs (Pay of magistrates court staff; industrial action) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 11 1980 Oct 13 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 157
PREM19/784 Home affairs (Penlee lifeboat disaster fund; guidance for organisers of disaster appeals) 1981 Dec 22 1982 Mar 9 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 43
PREM19/1525 Home Affairs (Police and Criminal Procedure Bill: police complaints procedure; powers of entry; enforcement powers of revenue dePartments; collection of Value Added Tax (VAT); Crown Prosecution Service) (Part 2) 1982 Jan 5 1985 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 290
PREM19/2721 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: industrial action by the Prison Officers Association; private sector involvement in the remand system) (Part 4) 1987 Nov 2 1989 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/485 Home affairs (Powers of entry: review by David Mitchell, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at Department of Industry; enforcement powers of Revenue Departments; European Commission powers of entry) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 23 1981 Sep 25 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 244
PREM19/1784 Home Affairs (Prime Minister's seminar on crime prevention, January 1986) (Part 1) 1985 Aug 8 1986 Mar 20 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1261 Home affairs (Proposed acquisition of ‘Observer’ newspaper by Tiny Rowland's Lonrho Group; Robert Maxwell's bids for Mirror Group and Express Group of newspapers) 1981 Jun 12 1984 Jul 13 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 22
PREM19/2723 Home Affairs (Race relations: Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) draft Code of Practice; scrutiny of grants under section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966) (Part 1) 1980 May 14 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3026 Home Affairs (Report of the Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People; social security benefits and employment and training services for disabled people) 1982 May 7 1990 Jun 27 2016 Dec 30

Pages