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 ascending File classification Pages
PREM19/3342 Foreign Policy (Summary notes on Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) Assessments) (Part 4) 1989 Aug 1 1991 Feb 22 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2234 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 8) 1987 Apr 3 1987 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21 Confidential CMO 280
PREM19/2952 Economic Policy (Pay Review Body reports) (Part 10) 1989 Jan 4 1990 Jan 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2106 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 39) 1987 Aug 5 1988 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1605 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Gordon Brown MP to discuss factory closures in his Dunfermline East constituency and general regional policy) 1983 Sep 11 1985 Jan 11 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/930 Trade unions (Trade union education and training: continuance of government grant) 1979 Dec 13 1982 Mar 1 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 71
PREM19/594 Security (Prosecution of John Wagstaff under Official Secrets Act; investigation by Security Commission) 1980 May 13 1981 May 8 2012 Feb 22 Secret 123
PREM19/254 Home Affairs (Use of immigration rules to prevent scientologists entering UK; lifting of the ban) 1979 Nov 14 1980 Jul 2 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 14
PREM19/4014 Brazil (UK relations with Brazil: internal situation) (Part 1) 1982 Sep 30 1993 Nov 26 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3477 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 25 1991 May 21 2017 Jul 20 Secret 290
PREM19/2659 Environmental Affairs (Benson Building, Islington) (Part 12) 1989 Jul 3 1989 Jul 18 2016 Dec 30 Unclassified 5
PREM19/2121 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure; national curriculum; bogus degrees; charges for school activities; grant maintained schools; counter-obstruction measures; education reform in Scotland and Wales; financial delegation) (Part 14) 1987 Jul 15 1987 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19 Confidential 425
PREM19/2761 Local Government (Correspondence from Sir John Sainsbury on planning controls: general planning inquiries; proposed Planning Bill) (Part 6) 1989 Mar 1 1989 Aug 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1883 Parliament (House of Commons Defence Committee: Falklands Inquiry) 1982 Jun 24 1986 Jul 16 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1523 Home Affairs (Open Government: disclosure of official information) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1985 Oct 16 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 256

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