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 namesort ascending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2303 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 35) 1988 Apr 5 1988 Jul 29 2016 Jul 21 Secret 390
PREM19/2302 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 34) 1987 Dec 3 1988 Mar 31 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 302
PREM19/2301 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 33) 1987 Aug 4 1987 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 246
PREM19/2300 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 32) 1987 Mar 3 1987 Jul 30 2016 Oct 31 Secret and CMO 325
PREM19/2299 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 31) 1986 Nov 3 1987 Feb 25 2016 Oct 31 Secret and Personal 293
PREM19/1836 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 30) 1986 Jun 6 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 266
PREM19/1835 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 29) 1985 Dec 2 1986 May 28 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 344
PREM19/3068 Local Government (Relations between central and local government: local authority expenditure) (Part 37) 1989 Jun 9 1990 Feb 26 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3844 Local Government (Planning controls: Planning and Compensation Bill; Sainsbury Group on Planning Issues; planning policies and the South East​​​​​​​) (Part 8) 1990 Aug 6 1992 Jun 18 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3843 Local Government (Pay of water industry workers and local authority manual workers: West Glamorgan Fire Brigade industrial dispute)​​​​​​​ (Part 4) 1983 May 3 1992 Nov 27 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3066 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 19) 1990 May 2 1990 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1837 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation) (Part 4) 1986 Jan 3 1986 Aug 23 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 258
PREM19/2767 Local Government (Correspondence with Councillor Paul Beresford, Leader of Wandsworth Council) 1989 Feb 22 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 55
PREM19/2298 Local Government (Correspondence from Sir John Sainsbury on planning controls: general planning inquiries; land for housing and planning policy) (Part 4) 1987 Jan 7 1988 Jan 21 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 227
PREM19/1834 Local Government (Correspondence from Sir John Sainsbury on planning controls: general planning enquiries) (Part 3) 1986 Jul 23 1986 Dec 23 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 369

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