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
PREM19/2756 Legal Procedure (Review of the legal profession: legal reforms) (Part 3) 1989 Apr 4 1989 Nov 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2758 Legal Procedure (The jury system in Britain) 1988 Oct 27 1989 Jan 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2759 Legal Procedure (The legal position of the need for the Prime Minister to give evidence in the trial of Ron Brown MP) 1982 Sep 1 1989 Apr 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/826 Legal procedure (UK Bill of Rights; Lord Wade's Bill) 1979 Dec 11 1982 Mar 31 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 56
PREM19/1298 Legal procedure (United States anti-trust investigation into allegations of price fixing against British airlines, following collapse of Laker Airways) (Part 1) 1983 Mar 1 1984 Nov 23 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/288 Liberia (Visit to UK by President Tolbert, December 1979: meeting with Prime Minister) 1979 Jun 13 1980 Mar 5 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 141
PREM19/1832 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations) (Part 6) 1986 Apr 17 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1828 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; aftermath of shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau, 17 April 1984; severance of diplomatic relations) (Part 3B) 1984 May 31 1986 Apr 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1829 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; release of UK hostages) (Part 4A) 1985 Feb 1 1986 Apr 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1830 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; United States response to Libyan terrorism) (Part 4B) 1984 Apr 12 1986 Apr 16 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1831 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; United States response to Libyan terrorism) (Part 5) 1986 Apr 17 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2297 Libya (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 7) 1986 May 1 1987 Feb 27 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1299 Libya (UK/Libyan relations; threat to Libyan dissidents in UK) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 9 1984 Mar 23 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2760 Local Government (Correspondence from Sir John Sainsbury on planning controls: general planning inquiries) (Part 5) 1988 Feb 2 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
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

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