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? File classificationsort ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2293 Legal Procedure (Increase in number of Lords Justices of Appeal) 1987 Oct 21 1987 Oct 22 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 7
PREM19/907 Security (German occupation of the Channel Islands: allegations by Solomon Steckoll against Channel Islands officials) 1980 Sep 24 1982 Mar 11 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 27
PREM19/2405 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Dennis Canavan MP, 17 December 1987) 1984 Sep 11 1988 Jan 11 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 62
PREM19/63 Government machinery (Ministerial responsibility for population matters) 1979 Jun 1 1979 Jun 4 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 4
PREM19/965 Civil service (Lecture on the Civil Service given by Sir John Hoskyns) 1982 Oct 15 1982 Dec 9 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 55
PREM19/2294 Legal Procedure (Judges and the media) 1988 Mar 8 1988 Mar 31 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 10
PREM19/2659 Environmental Affairs (Benson Building, Islington) (Part 12) 1989 Jul 3 1989 Jul 18 2016 Dec 30 Unclassified 5
PREM19/64 Government machinery (Judges' expenses) 1979 Oct 19 1979 Oct 30 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 10
PREM19/845 Ministers (Lord President's participation in BBC Radio 4 programme on the Privy Council) 1982 Jun 15 1982 Jun 22 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 6
PREM19/94 Ministers (Propriety of appointing Minister likely to become MEP) 1979 May 8 1979 May 16 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 12
PREM19/2407 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Gerry Steinberg MP, 23 February 1988) 1987 Dec 14 1988 Mar 18 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 27
PREM19/66 Home affairs (Sale of Isle of Iona) 1979 May 21 1979 Jun 7 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 12
PREM19/784 Home affairs (Penlee lifeboat disaster fund; guidance for organisers of disaster appeals) 1981 Dec 22 1982 Mar 9 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 43
PREM19/315 Nationalised Industries (Correspondence with Alan Newman Ltd about contract for conversion of liner into floating hotel: negative response from Harland and Wolff and British Shipbuilders) 1980 Jul 2 1980 Aug 4 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 14
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

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