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
PREM19/421 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 16) 1981 Oct 26 1981 Nov 12 2011 Dec 30 Secret 99
PREM19/4584 Cameroon (UK/Cameroon relations) (Part 2) 1988 Apr 11 1994 Nov 18 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3198 Transport (Policy on roads: private finance for roads; traffic and parking in London) (Part 4) 1988 Aug 9 1989 Dec 15 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 380
PREM19/2343 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; draft White Paper) (Part 17) 1988 Dec 20 1988 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21 Secret 171
PREM19/2471 Royal Family (Marriage of the Earl of St Andrews, son of the Duke and Duchess of Kent) 1986 Dec 5 1986 Dec 8 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1692 Defence (Procurement of Weapon Systems (HARM/ALARM air launched missiles): airborne early warning aircraft (British Aerospace Nimrod and Boeing E3A)) (Part 4) 1986 Jun 10 1986 Dec 22 2016 Jul 21 Secret 314
PREM19/1349 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Jing Shuping, President of China International Economic Consultants (CIEC), November 1984) 1984 Oct 11 1984 Nov 13 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 20
PREM19/1011 Education (Wider parental choice; education vouchers) 1982 Nov 5 1983 Nov 18 2013 Aug 1 Secret 205
PREM19/676 Civil service (Pay and pensions) (Part 12) 1982 Jul 8 1982 Nov 18 2012 Dec 28 Secret 93
PREM19/335 Prime Minister (Visits to government departments and regional visits) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 27 1980 Jan 11 2010 Dec 30 Secret 240
PREM19/4335 Pakistan (Internal situation: military aid to Pakistan; death of President Zia) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 17 1993 Jul 15 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/47 Energy (Nuclear power safety - Schmidt letter) 1979 May 28 1979 Jun 29 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 28
PREM19/3340 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's meetings with the Foreign Secretary) (Part 2) 1987 Oct 20 1990 Dec 18 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3964 Transport (London Regional Transport: East-West Crossrail) (Part 4) 1990 May 8 1992 Aug 27 2017 Dec 29 Secret 311
PREM19/2236 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 10) 1987 Oct 1 1988 Jan 29 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 269

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