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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1260 Home affairs (Review of police conduct of Yorkshire Ripper (Peter Sutcliffe) case by HM Inspector of Constabulary, Lawrence Byford; transfer of Peter Sutcliffe to Broadmoor) 1980 Nov 25 1984 Mar 26 Retained Retained
PREM19/925 Soviet Union (Trade relations: credit restrictions; United States sanctions against Siberian pipeline - impact on John Brown Engineering and other European companies; controls on strategic exports) (Part 2) 1982 Apr 19 1982 Nov 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 276
PREM19/249 Government Machinery (Future of Civil Service Department; integration with the Treasury; Select Committee consideration) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 14 1980 Jul 4 2010 Dec 30 Secret 215
PREM19/4006 Argentina (Internal situation/relations) (Part 44) 1990 Jan 30 1993 May 27 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3492 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meetings with Robert Maxwell: death of Robert Maxwell) 1987 Nov 18 1991 Dec 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2650 Education (Student loans: White Paper on Student Support) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 6 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30 Secret 298
PREM19/2113 Education (Department of Education and Science (DES) draft circular 'Providing for Quality: the Pattern of Organisation to Age 19': proposed consultation) 1986 Jun 30 1986 Jul 21 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2753 Japan (Prime Minister's visit to Japan, September 1989) (Part 3a) 1989 Apr 27 1989 Sep 15 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1876 Norway (Prime Minister's visit to Norway, September 1986) 1982 Nov 16 1986 Oct 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1518 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste) (Part 19) 1985 Aug 1 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 255
PREM19/1182 Defence (Deployment of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) in Europe) (Part 4) 1983 Sep 21 1984 Jun 29 2014 Jan 3 Top Secret 369
PREM19/845 Ministers (Lord President's participation in BBC Radio 4 programme on the Privy Council) 1982 Jun 15 1982 Jun 22 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 6
PREM19/509 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach (Garret Fitzgerald); Anglo-Irish Summit, November 1981) (Part 5) 1981 Oct 22 1981 Nov 6 2011 Dec 30 Secret 224
PREM19/169 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 12) 1980 Nov 11 1980 Nov 24 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/2909 Arts and Amenities (Policy towards the arts: private sponsorship of the arts; Wilding Report 'Supporting the Arts') (Part 3) 1987 Jul 31 1990 Apr 10 2017 Jul 20

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