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
PREM19/2491 Security (Terrorist activity and extremism in Great Britain) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 3 1987 Sep 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2492 Security (Terrorist activity and extremism in Great Britain, including threat to UK nuclear facilities and nuclear materials) (Part 4) 1987 Oct 19 1988 Sep 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/4339 Parliament (Remuneration of Junior Ministers in the House of Lords) (Part 1) 1980 Jul 7 1993 May 21 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3934 Security (Appointment of successors to the Director General of the Secret Intelligence Service and Director General of the Security Service: Prime Minister's visit to the Security Service; Security Service accommodation)(Part 2) 1990 Jul 1 1992 Jul 17 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2972 Environmental Affairs (The litter problem in the UK: Environmental Protection Bill) (Part 2) 1989 May 4 1990 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2135 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power; Layfield report on new Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR), Sizewell 'B'; doctrine of collective responsibility aspect of Energy Secretary's decision to accept Layfield recommendation; study by Advisory Council on Applied Research and Development (ACARD) on UK future nuclear reactor programme) (Part 11) 1987 Feb 4 1987 Nov 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1624 Security (Allegations made to Kenneth Warren MP by John Kane about security standards at Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) establishments) 1979 Jun 14 1984 Mar 26 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4091 Economic Policy (Insolvency law reform) 1983 Sep 29 1993 Apr 26 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2794 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 18) 1988 Sep 30 1989 Sep 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2799 Poland (UK/Polish relations: internal situation; economic assistance) (Part 11) 1989 Sep 1 1989 Dec 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3579 Treasury ​​​​​​​(Barlow Clowes)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1989 Nov 16 1991 Dec 19 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1982 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy; Prime Minister's 'Better Made in Britain' seminar, 25 February 1986) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 8 1986 Jan 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1459 Economic policy (Policy towards privatisation: disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions) (Part 11 1984 Aug 2 1985 Mar 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4349 Police (Police policy) (Part 4) 1990 Jul 2 1993 Jan 20 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/363 Security (Policy on interception) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 7 1980 Mar 19 Retained Unknown

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