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
PREM19/3981 USA (Visit to the UK by George Shultz, US Secretary of State) (Part 2) 1987 Dec 1 1992 May 25 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2229 Home Affairs (Mr Justice May's Inquiry into the UK Prison Service; Prison Service pay and dispute; appointment of a Prisons Inspectorate; prison population) 1979 Oct 4 1986 Apr 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2947 Economic Policy (Taxation of individuals, including tax reform) (Part 4) 1987 Jul 6 1990 Mar 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2103 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 36) 1986 Oct 1 1987 Jan 16 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1602 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Field Marshal Sir Edwin Bramall, retiring Chief of the Defence Staff) 1982 Sep 7 1985 Nov 2 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/927 Sport (Sporting relations with Argentina; possible withdrawal of UK teams from Football World Cup 1982) 1982 Apr 29 1982 Aug 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 19
PREM19/591 Security (Security of the Secret Services; Chapman Pincher's book on penetration of security and intelligence services, 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Prime Minister's statement in Parliament) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1981 Aug 12 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/251 Greece (Sale of coal fired power station) 1980 Sep 12 1980 Dec 29 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 128
PREM19/4009 Australia (UK/Australian relations: internal situation)(Part 3) 1990 Jan 7 1993 Jul 19 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3480 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings and correspondence with Jack Peel) (Part 2) 1989 Oct 1 1991 Mar 27 2017 Jul 20 Unclassified 23
PREM19/2655 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Prime Minister's seminar on the global climate, April 1989) (Part 9) 1989 Apr 2 1989 Apr 28 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 511
PREM19/2118 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure; future of polytechnics) (Part 11) 1987 Jan 22 1987 Feb 28 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2758 Legal Procedure (The jury system in Britain) 1988 Oct 27 1989 Jan 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1880 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 14) 1985 Jun 3 1986 Apr 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1520 Home Affairs (Review of the law on public order: Green Paper) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 26 1985 Jan 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 323

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