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
PREM19/3625 China (Calls on the Prime Minister by the Chinese Ambassador) 1979 May 30 1992 Mar 31 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1881 Parliament (Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 5 1986 Apr 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1521 Home Affairs (Civil disorder: Scarman Report on the 1981 Brixton riots) (Part 2) 1981 Oct 30 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 172
PREM19/1185 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 15 1984 Feb 28 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 435
PREM19/848 National health (Nurses' and midwives' pay; report of Standing Commission on Pay Comparability (Clegg report)) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 17 1982 Jan 27 2012 Dec 28 Secret 201
PREM19/2426 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Toby Jessel MP about proposed closure of the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall, 21 January 1986) 1986 Jan 10 1987 Mar 20 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 49
PREM19/1908 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, April 1985: administrative arrangements) (part 2) 1985 Apr 4 1986 Jan 15 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/189 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Venice) (Part 4) [Part 5 of this file has been destroyed] 1980 Jun 20 1980 Aug 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 189
PREM19/3264 Disasters ​​​​​​​(Piper Alpha oil platform explosion, 6 July 1988)(Part 1) 1988 Jul 7 1991 Mar 25 2017 Jul 20 Secret 131
PREM19/2628 Economic Policy (The 1989 Budget) (Part 18) 1988 Apr 5 1989 Nov 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3795 Home Affairs (The right of silence) 1984 Sep 23 1992 Jan 10 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1784 Home Affairs (Prime Minister's seminar on crime prevention, January 1986) (Part 1) 1985 Aug 8 1986 Mar 20 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2334 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS)) (Part 8) 1987 Feb 10 1987 Sep 14 2016 Jul 21 Secret 125
PREM19/1441 Defence (Armed Forces' pay: pay review body report; Service doctors' and dentists' pay; local and overseas allowance; London weighting) (Part 2) 1982 Mar 11 1985 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 270
PREM19/3097 Nationalised Industries (Coal mines) (Part 21) 1987 Nov 4 1990 Jun 28 2016 Dec 30

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