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
PREM19/3384 Home Affairs ​​​​​​​(Severe weather conditions in the UK) 1982 Jan 1 1991 Feb 13 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3376 Home Affairs ​​​​​​​(The problem of dangerous dogs)(Part 1) 1989 Jun 8 1991 Mar 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3385 Home Affairs ​​​​​​​(Women's National Commission: policy towards women)(Part 2) 1988 Feb 17 1991 Nov 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1530 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 17) 1984 Sep 26 1985 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30 14 Secret 291
PREM19/1796 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 18) 1985 May 2 1986 Oct 20 2014 Dec 30 Secret 215
PREM19/3386 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 24) 1990 Apr 1 1991 Mar 28 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3798 Hong Kong (Guangdong nuclear power station project at Daya Bay, China: meetings with Lord Kadoorie, Chairman of China Light and Power Company (CLP)) (Part 4) 1986 Jan 3 1992 Sep 8 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1531 Hong Kong (Metro Cammell contract to supply rolling stock for Kowloon-Canton railway) 1981 Aug 14 1985 Sep 26 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 38
PREM19/1532 Hong Kong (Power projects in Hong Kong and China involving UK companies: Castle Peak power station in Hong Kong; Guandong nuclear power project) (Part 3) 1982 Dec 2 1985 Dec 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 300
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
PREM19/2236 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 10) 1987 Oct 1 1988 Jan 29 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 269
PREM19/2237 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 11) 1988 Feb 1 1988 Apr 29 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 334
PREM19/2238 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 12) 1988 May 3 1988 Jul 29 2016 Jul 21 Secret 404
PREM19/2239 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 13) 1988 Aug 5 1988 Dec 22 2016 Jul 21 Secret and Personal 351
PREM19/2729 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 14) 1989 Jan 6 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30 Secret 272

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