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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/72 Industrial policy (Future of Rolls-Royce) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Nov 14 2009 Dec 30 Secret 97
PREM19/1422 Broadcasting (Television licence fees: finances of BBC; pay in the BBC; review of external services) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 6 1985 Mar 28 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 263
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
PREM19/3319 European Policy ​​​​​​​(European Council meeting, Luxembourg, June 1991)(Part 38A) 1990 Apr 27 1991 Jun 16 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/749 European policy (European Council meeting in Brussels, March 1982) (Part 10) 1982 Feb 22 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 314
PREM19/3940 Security (Policy on interception of communications)(Part 7) 1988 Feb 29 1992 Aug 20 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/414 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 4) 1980 Oct 17 1981 Mar 6 2011 Dec 30 Secret 240
PREM19/2248 Industrial Policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 12) 1985 Mar 6 1987 Jan 28 2016 Jul 21 Secret 264
PREM19/2968 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Environment White Paper) (Part 16) 1990 May 1 1990 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2133 Elections (Election procedure) (Part 3) 1987 May 13 1988 Mar 31 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1685 Civil Service (Pay and pensions: pay dispute; review of early retirement arrangements) (Part 15) 1985 Apr 7 1986 May 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2134 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power; the Sizewell Report) (Part 10) 1986 Jun 2 1987 Jan 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1686 Civil Service (Property Services Agency (PSA) restructuring: report by Sir Geoffrey Wardale on fraud in the PSA) (Part 1) 1982 Jul 22 1986 Aug 5 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1 Archives (Suez 1956 files) 1980 Feb 21 1986 Jun 30 2006 Dec 1 Confidential 36
PREM19/1343 Portugal (Prime Minister's visit to Portugal, April 1984) 1984 Feb 8 1984 Aug 9 2014 Jan 3

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