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
PREM19/553 Overseas aid (Renegotiation of Lome Convention; closure of Tate and Lyle refinery in Liverpool; effect on African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) sugar suppliers) (Part 1) 1979 May 31 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 252
PREM19/860 Pakistan (Prime Minister's visit to Pakistan, October 1981) 1981 Sep 9 1982 Jan 27 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 112
PREM19/99 Pakistan (Sale of cargo ships to Pakistan by British Shipbuilders) 1979 Jul 27 1979 Aug 23 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 15
PREM19/320 Pakistan (Visit to UK by Agha Shahi, Foreign Minister, June 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 Jun 12 1980 Jun 19 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 70
PREM19/1592 Papua New Guinea (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers Sir Julius Chan, May 1981, and Michael Somare, April 1985: meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Apr 2 1985 Apr 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/862 Parliament (Appointment of Parliamentary Private Secretaries) (Part 1) 1979 May 7 1982 Apr 27 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 267
PREM19/1338 Parliament (Article in ‘The Listener’ by Julian Critchley MP alleging breach of pairing rules by Tom Pendry MP in 1976 vote: Pendry's action against Critchley; possible disclosure of report by Government and Opposition Whips in June 1976 to Prime Minister Callaghan) 1976 Jun 18 1984 Oct 12 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/866 Parliament (BBC television series about the Palace of Westminster) 1981 Apr 8 1982 Aug 4 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 47
PREM19/1885 Parliament (Boundary Commission reviews of Parliamentary constituencies in UK)(Part 1) 1981 Feb 19 1986 Feb 20 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/2796 Parliament (Boundary Commission reviews of Parliamentary constituencies in Wales and the UK) (Part 2) 1986 Jul 11 1989 Jan 18 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1595 Parliament (Cost of Parliament: report of Select Committee on Procedure (Finance)) 1980 May 16 1985 Apr 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/321 Parliament (Defence Committee inquiry into Polaris successor systems) 1980 May 9 1980 Oct 17 2010 Dec 30 Top Secret 14
PREM19/1099 Parliament (Future of Concorde aircraft; financial aspects; discussions with French) 1980 Dec 12 1983 Mar 17 2013 Aug 1 Secret 289
PREM19/1883 Parliament (House of Commons Defence Committee: Falklands Inquiry) 1982 Jun 24 1986 Jul 16 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1593 Parliament (House of Commons procedure: election of Speaker; appointment of Departmental Select Committees; Government reply to Public Accounts Committee; rules on release of documents and disclosure of information to Select Committees) (Part 6) 1983 Apr 12 1985 May 28 2014 Dec 30

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