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 Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld?sort descending File classification Pages
PREM19/472 Germany (Visit to UK by Chancellor Schmidt, March 1980: Anglo-German Summit) (Part 2) 1979 Aug 13 1981 Apr 17 2012 Feb 22 Secret 229
PREM19/2405 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Dennis Canavan MP, 17 December 1987) 1984 Sep 11 1988 Jan 11 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 62
PREM19/1861 National Health (Prime Minister's dinner for Regional Health Authority Chairmen, 25 September 1986) 1986 Jul 15 1986 Nov 3 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2538 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 6) 1986 Jun 2 1987 Jan 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1743 Environmental Affairs (The refurbishment of Trafalgar Square) 1986 Jun 24 1986 Jun 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/50 European policy (Agriculture) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1979 Oct 26 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 230
PREM19/1400 Transport (British Rail: review of main line electrification; Hastings-Tonbridge rail service) 1980 Nov 13 1984 Jul 30 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 274
PREM19/727 Economic policy (Taxation of widows and single women aged 60-64: exchanges with Jeff Rooker MP) 1981 Mar 26 1981 Jun 22 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 35
PREM19/392 Australia (Transfer of uranium enrichment technology to Australia) 1980 Jul 3 1981 Apr 29 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 27
PREM19/4501 USA (Visit of Donald Regan, US Treasury Secretary, on 8 December 1983: includes plan for a visit by his successor, Lloyd Bentsen) 1983 Nov 17 1993 Feb 4 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3839 Legal Procedures (Courts and Legal Services Bill: legal services in Northern Ireland; use of the private sector for government legal work; conveyancing; rights of audience of employed barristers) (Part 4) 1983 May 3 1992 Nov 27 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 191
PREM19/2307 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 8) 1987 Aug 3 1987 Nov 12 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3028 Home Affairs (The campaign against and the use of chemical herbicides, especially 2,4,5-T: pesticide policy) 1980 Jun 1 1990 Apr 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2278 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 24) 1988 Apr 1 1988 Aug 31 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1661 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, July 1985) 1985 Jul 8 1985 Jul 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 278

Pages