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? File classification Pagessort ascending
PREM19/4440 Singapore (Relations with UK: visits by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew; meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1988 Apr 9 1993 Dec 2 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2470 Royal Family (Proposals relating to the papers concerning the Abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936) 1985 Feb 21 1988 Mar 24 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1691 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems (HARM/ALARM air launched missiles)) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 1 1986 May 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1611 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with James Hill MP to discuss Southampton's Docks and Freeport) 1985 May 16 1985 Oct 14 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4361 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with the Board of Deputies of British Jews) 1979 Oct 12 1993 Mar 25 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3968 Treasury (Secret Vote cash limits: Intelligence Agencies estimates) 1990 Oct 10 1992 Dec 1 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2235 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 9) 1987 Jul 6 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2953 Economic Policy (Venture capital) 1981 Jun 8 1990 May 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2107 Economic Policy (Public sector pay policy; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 13) 1984 Oct 4 1987 Jul 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1606 Prime Minister (Radio profile of the Prime Minister by Hugo Young and Anne Sloman of BBC: discouragement of Civil Service participation) 1985 Jan 23 1985 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4014 Brazil (UK relations with Brazil: internal situation) (Part 1) 1982 Sep 30 1993 Nov 26 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1884 Parliament (Parliamentary Maritime Group: Prime Minister's meeting with Sir Edward du Cann, 8 July 1986) 1985 Apr 25 1986 Jul 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1524 Home Affairs (Monopolies and Mergers papers) (Part 1) 1981 Dec 10 1985 Dec 19 2054 Jan 1 FOI exemptions
PREM19/2863 South Africa (Visit to UK by F W de Klerk, leader of the South African National Party, June 1989) 1980 Feb 12 1989 Jul 11 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1959 Social Services (Reform of social security: pensions, housing benefit and supplementary benefit; child support) (Part 4) 1985 Dec 3 1986 Sep 16 2016 Feb 19

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