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
PREM19/1417 Aerospace (Third London Airport) 1979 Nov 27 1985 Jan 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 230
PREM19/1081 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 17) 1983 Sep 19 1983 Oct 31 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 164
PREM19/744 European policy (Visits to UK by Gaston Thorn, President of the European Commission, and Leo Tindemans, President of the Council of Ministers; meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 29 1982 Sep 14 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 249
PREM19/409 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy; Sir Derek Rayner's recommendations for reforms; Civil Service numbers and costs; chain of command review; efficiency) (Part 8) 1981 Mar 9 1981 Sep 28 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 288
PREM19/3094 National Health ​​​​​​​(Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): implementation of NHS reforms) (Part 24) 1990 Apr 2 1990 May 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1680 Cabinet (Questions of Procedure for Ministers) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 18 1986 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3660 Downing Street (Physical security aspects of Downing Street) (Part 7) 1988 Apr 5 1992 Jul 2 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/999 Economic policy (International banking system) (Part 2) 1982 Dec 1 1983 Aug 23 2013 Aug 1 Secret 413
PREM19/1853 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): Value for Money seminars; NHS Management Board) (Part 5) 1985 Apr 1 1986 May 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/664 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; cable systems and broadcasting policy) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 16 1982 Feb 25 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 143
PREM19/323 Parliament (House of Commons procedure; reorganization of Select Committees; Departmental Select Committees; provision of evidence to Select Committees) (Part 2) 1980 Feb 1 1980 Mar 13 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 240
PREM19/3246 Commonwealth ​​​​​​​(Commonwealth Security Conference, London, June 1991) 1990 Nov 13 1991 Jan 14 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3846 Local Government (Water industry: structural change; privatisation of the water authorities; consultation paper 'Using Water Wisely') (Part 7) 1989 Sep 4 1992 Nov 23 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2303 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 35) 1988 Apr 5 1988 Jul 29 2016 Jul 21 Secret 390
PREM19/2095 Economic Policy (Indebtedness of various countries; Treasury reports on the international financial scene) (Part 6) 1986 Mar 20 1987 Oct 22 2016 Jul 21

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