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
PREM19/2734 India​​​​​​​ (Visits to the UK by Vice-Presidents of India, Mohammad Hidayatullah (July 1983) and Shankar Dayal Sharma (November 1989)) 1983 Jun 18 1989 Jul 8 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2024 Broadcasting (Legislation on broadcasting; Green Paper on radio policy; breakfast television) (Part 2) 1982 Oct 21 1988 Apr 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2689 Foreign Policy (Policy towards bilateral summits) 1988 Mar 28 1989 Apr 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1819 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 2 1986 May 27 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 104
PREM19/1476 Environmental Affairs (Prime Minister's lunch with conservationists) 1985 Oct 21 1985 Nov 26 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 46
PREM19/1141 Sport (Invitation to Princess Anne to become President of British Olympic Association) 1983 Mar 4 1983 Apr 12 Closed until 2024-01-01 Unknown
PREM19/805 Industrial policy (Information technology (IT): appointment of IT Advisory Panel and establishment of IT Unit in Cabinet Office; Kenneth Baker's role as Minister for IT) (Part 2) 1981 Apr 1 1981 Oct 31 2012 Dec 28 Restricted 158
PREM19/469 France (Visit to UK by President Giscard d'Estaing, November 1979: Anglo-French Summit) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 11 1981 Mar 10 2011 Dec 30 Secret 190
PREM19/3658 Disasters (Thames riverboat disaster: sinking of the Marchioness, 20 August 1989) 1989 Aug 20 1992 Jul 3 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 81
PREM19/1857 National Health (Area Health Authority Chairmen: reappointment and remuneration) 1981 Apr 27 1986 Jan 28 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1740 Energy (Activities and role of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (AEA)) 1984 Mar 2 1986 Mar 11 2014 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/47 Energy (Nuclear power safety - Schmidt letter) 1979 May 28 1979 Jun 29 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 28
PREM19/1397 Trade (Britain’s international trade policies; problems with Spain and Japan; rolling back protectionism; export promotion) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 4 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 277
PREM19/1061 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 9) 1982 Mar 24 1983 Jan 20 2013 Aug 1 Secret 245
PREM19/724 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Versailles) (Part 8) 1982 Jun 3 1982 Jun 5 2012 Dec 28 Secret 213

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