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
PREM19/899 Royal family (Civil List) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 7 1982 Mar 23 Retained Unknown
PREM19/563 Prime Minister (Meeting with Northern Group of Labour MPs regarding organisation of regional offices of Departments of Environment and Transport) 1980 Dec 17 1981 Jan 21 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 21
PREM19/223 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 5) 1980 Jan 22 1980 Feb 25 2010 Dec 30 Secret 144
PREM19/2666 European Policy (European Council meeting, Madrid, June 1989) (Part 33) 1989 Jun 23 1989 Jun 27 2017 Jul 20 Secret 348
PREM19/3533 Security ​​​​​​​(Telephone scramblers installed in private homes: security of the private homes of No. 10 Downing Street staff)​​​​​​​ 1981 Jan 14 1991 Jan 30 2052 Jan 1
PREM19/2564 United Nations (World Conference of the United Nations Decade for Women, Copenhagen, July 1980: ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)) 1980 Jul 8 1987 Jul 28 2016 Nov 7 Confidential 147
PREM19/2044 Civil Service (Property Services Agency (PSA) restructuring) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 3 1988 Feb 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2713 Government Machinery (Request for part of Property Services Agency, PSA Supplies, to trade under the name 'The Crown Suppliers': the future of The Crown Suppliers) 1983 Sep 20 1989 Nov 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1834 Local Government (Correspondence from Sir John Sainsbury on planning controls: general planning enquiries) (Part 3) 1986 Jul 23 1986 Dec 23 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 369
PREM19/1492 European Policy (European Council meeting, Milan, June 1985) (Part 22) 1985 Jun 27 1985 Dec 6 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 247
PREM19/1156 India (Visit to UK by Narasimha Rao, Indian Minister of External Affairs, November 1983: meeting with Prime Minister) 1983 Aug 22 1983 Nov 7 2013 Aug 1 Secret 112
PREM19/819 Ireland (Taoiseach Charles Haughey's advice to SDLP's John Hume in upcoming Northern Ireland election) 1982 Apr 30 1982 May 4 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/3042 Industrial Policy (Future of the Rover Group: National Audit Office report on the sale of the Rover Group) (Part 16) 1989 Jan 7 1990 Mar 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/484 Home affairs (Civil disorder: riots in Brixton, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester & London; Prime Minister's meetings with community leaders; anti-riot equipment for the police; Urban Programme; implications for local authority spending) 1980 Apr 2 1981 Oct 29 2011 Dec 30 Secret 247
PREM19/1897 Prime Minister (Meeting with members of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee) 1986 Jul 15 1986 Aug 20 2016 Feb 19

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