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 descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1217 Environmental affairs (Environmental policy: acid rain, pollution control; Environment Committee report; agriculture and conservation; reports of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution) (Part 2) 1984 Jun 1 1984 Oct 31 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 244
PREM19/3381 Home Affairs ​​​​​​​(Notting Hill Carnival) 1979 Aug 24 1991 Jul 22 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/880 Prime Minister (Meeting with George Foulkes MP to discuss closure of Falmers factory in Patna, Scotland) 1981 Feb 16 1982 Jul 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 94
PREM19/2554 Trade (Coordination of Ministerial trade promotion visits overseas; reports on major civil overseas sales prospects) 1981 Apr 15 1988 Oct 6 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 250
PREM19/544 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: industrial energy pricing; future of British Gas Corporation's appliance retailing activity) (Part 5) 1981 Jun 5 1981 Oct 12 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 241
PREM19/2029 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; subscription television; independent television producers) (Part 4) 1987 Mar 17 1987 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2698 Germany (Visits to the UK by Governing Mayors of Berlin: Dietrich Stobb, Richard von Weizsacker, Eberhard Diepgen and Walter Momper) 1979 Mar 2 1989 May 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1826 Legal Procedure (Possible reform of the law on rape) 1981 Jan 6 1986 Nov 11 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 151
PREM19/1483 European Policy (Visits to UK by Viscount Etienne Davignon, Vice-President of European Commission, February and November 1984: meetings with Prime Minister) 1983 Dec 23 1984 Nov 23 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 29
PREM19/290 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 28 1980 Sep 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 205
PREM19/1138 Social services (Treatment of redundancy payments as income for purposes of supplementary benefit) 1983 Sep 30 1983 Nov 7 2013 Aug 1 Secret 9
PREM19/3522 Science and Technology ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meetings with scientists, February 1982 and January 1991)​​​​​​​ 1982 Feb 1 1991 Feb 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/801 India (Visit to UK by Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, March 1982: meeting with Prime Minister; Festival of India) (Part 2) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Aug 5 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 229
PREM19/2408 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Gordon Brown MP to discuss redundancies and closures in his constituency, 29 January 1987) 1984 Nov 16 1987 Feb 24 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 55
PREM19/465 European policy (Prime Minister's address to European Parliament, December 1981) 1980 Nov 3 1981 Dec 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 134

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