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
PREM19/3373 Government Machinery ​​​​​​​(Shareholding in British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL): future of BNFL; BNFL pay negotiations) 1981 Feb 19 1991 Jul 1 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2212 Greece (Visits to UK by Andreas Papandreou as Leader of the Opposition and as Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1980 Oct 24 1988 Nov 8 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 200
PREM19/3374 Greece ​​​​​​​(Visits to UK of Greek Prime Ministers, Tzannis Tzannetakis and his successor Konstantinos Mitsotakis)(Part 2) 1989 Sep 11 1991 Sep 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2213 Guyana (Visits to UK by Guyanese Presidents Forbes Burnham and Desmond Hoyte) 1980 Jan 11 1988 May 11 2016 Jul 21 4 Confidential 219
PREM19/2214 Histories (Histories of Special Operations Executive (SOE)) 1980 May 1 1988 Nov 24 2015 Dec 30 Secret and Personal 32
PREM19/2227 Home Affairs (Behaviour of British football fans abroad: football hooliganism) (Part 6) 1986 Sep 25 1988 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30 Unclassified 69
PREM19/2217 Home Affairs (Capital punishment; sentencing policy) (Part 2) 1986 Mar 7 1987 Feb 23 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 199
PREM19/1783 Home Affairs (Civil disorder: the Handsworth and Tottenham riots) (Part 3) 1985 Oct 4 1986 Mar 20 2014 Dec 30 3 Secret 98
PREM19/2219 Home Affairs (Data protection) (Part 1) 1980 Nov 27 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21 1 Confidential 159
PREM19/2220 Home Affairs (Demonstrations outside Embassies) 1987 Oct 16 1988 Feb 8 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 27
PREM19/1791 Home Affairs (Disposal of nuclear waste) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 20 1986 Jan 22 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 323
PREM19/2221 Home Affairs (Government grants to National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux) 1983 Apr 12 1988 Nov 15 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 61
PREM19/2218 Home Affairs (Home Secretary's seminar on crime prevention, June 1986, and subsequent action) (Part 2) 1986 Apr 10 1987 Jul 24 2016 Jul 21 1 Confidential 115
PREM19/2224 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: increase in the prison population) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 12 1987 Oct 27 2016 Nov 7 2 Secret and Personal 292
PREM19/1786 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: prison manpower; Scrutiny of the Prison Service) (Part 2) 1983 Mar 9 1986 May 22 2014 Dec 30 Secret 291

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