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 name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3579 Treasury ​​​​​​​(Barlow Clowes)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1989 Nov 16 1991 Dec 19 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2464 Regional Policy (Inner Cities Initiative: action following report by Eric Sorensen; Ministerial and departmental responsibility for coordination and presentation of policy towards inner cities; Kenneth Clarke, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to assume coordination responsibility; designation of further Urban Development Corporations (UDCs); Canary Wharf development by Olympia & York) (Part 12) 1987 Dec 1 1988 Feb 29 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 357
PREM19/1982 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy; Prime Minister's 'Better Made in Britain' seminar, 25 February 1986) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 8 1986 Jan 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2654 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; London Conference on Saving the Ozone Layer, March 1989) (Part 8) 1989 Mar 1 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/111 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 6) 1979 Aug 31 1979 Sep 11 2009 Dec 30 Secret 206
PREM19/1461 Economic policy (Financial services: position of Stock Exchange, including future changes to structure and membership; Gower Report on Investor Protection; securities regulation; commercial fraud) (Part 1) 1983 Nov 24 1985 Sep 18 2014 Dec 30 Secret 351
PREM19/789 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 5 1982 Sep 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 297
PREM19/453 Energy (Future of British National Oil Corporation (BNOC); Petroleum and Continental Shelf Bill; Clyde oil field development) (Part 4) 1980 Jul 4 1981 Dec 22 2011 Dec 30 Secret 214
PREM19/3124 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meeting with Margaret Harrison, Director of Home-Start, 13 July 1990) 1990 Jul 6 1990 Sep 17 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3699 Egypt (Visits to the UK by President Mubarak and the Egyptian Foreign Minister) (Part 2) 1986 Jul 14 1992 Dec 31 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2377 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 15) 1986 May 2 1987 Jan 28 2016 Jul 21 Secret 198
PREM19/363 Security (Policy on interception) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 7 1980 Mar 19 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2510 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 11) 1988 Apr 7 1988 Sep 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1724 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: introduction of General Certificate of Education (GCSE); Education Bill; biased teaching and political indoctrination in schools and colleges; city technological colleges; restructuring school education) (Part 8) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Sep 25 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/31 Economic policy (Privatization) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 4 1979 Jul 20 2009 Dec 30 Secret 189

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