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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2035 Chad (Internal situation) 1981 Nov 12 1987 Oct 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1558 Legal Procedure (Restrictions on conveyancing for reward: solicitors' conveyancing monopoly; increased competition) 1983 Nov 10 1985 May 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 155
PREM19/1149 USA (Visit to UK by Edwin Meese, Counsellor to President Reagan: meeting with Prime Minister, May 1983) 1983 Apr 18 1983 May 19 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 56
PREM19/3389 Hong Kong (Prime Minister's meetings and correspondence with Sir Yue-Kong Pao, shipping magnate) (Part 3) 1986 Nov 4 1991 Oct 15 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/136 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 21 1980 Feb 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 257
PREM19/2528 South Africa (Report of the Erasmus Commission on alleged irregularities in the South African Department of Information; resignation of President John Vorster; European Community Erasmus programme (student exchange programme)) 1979 Jun 6 1987 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 12
PREM19/2023 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; cable systems and their effect on broadcasting policy) (Part 6) 1986 Mar 6 1988 Jun 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2689 Foreign Policy (Policy towards bilateral summits) 1988 Mar 28 1989 Apr 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/477 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Rayner Scrutiny Programme) (Part 7) 1980 Nov 26 1981 Feb 2 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 260
PREM19/1820 Japan (Anglo-Japanese relations) (Part 5) 1985 Jun 7 1986 Dec 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 264
PREM19/55 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 3) 1979 Oct 25 1979 Nov 30 2009 Dec 30 Secret 329
PREM19/732 Education (Secondary school education; legislation to remove the compulsion for comprehensive education; the Education Bill; local authority arrangements for school curriculum) (Part 1) 1979 May 14 1981 Oct 14 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 236
PREM19/3531 Security ​​​​​​​(Miscellaneous leaks and security breaches)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1989 Jan 10 1991 Apr 26 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2402 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Allen Adams MP to discuss Babcock Power, 20 January 1987) 1986 Dec 23 1987 Jan 20 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 14
PREM19/1854 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Management Board) (Part 6) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Sep 30 2016 Feb 19

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