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 namesort ascending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1833 Local Government (Correspondence from Sir John Sainsbury on planning controls: general planning enquiries) (Part 2) 1985 May 1 1986 May 2 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 290
PREM19/1300 Libya (UK/Libyan relations; threat to Libyan dissidents in UK; shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau, 17 April 1984; severance of diplomatic relations) (Part 2A) 1984 Apr 17 1984 May 2 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1302 Libya (Anglo-Libyan relations; aftermath of shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau, 17 April 1984; severance of diplomatic relations) (Part 3A) 1984 May 1 1984 May 25 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1301 Libya (Anglo-Libyan relations; aftermath of shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau, 17 April 1984; severance of diplomatic relations) (Part 2B) 1984 Apr 24 1984 Apr 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3839 Legal Procedures (Courts and Legal Services Bill: legal services in Northern Ireland; use of the private sector for government legal work; conveyancing; rights of audience of employed barristers) (Part 4) 1983 May 3 1992 Nov 27 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2296 Legal Procedure (Quia timet injunctions) 1987 Feb 9 1987 Feb 25 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 26
PREM19/1827 Legal Procedure (Publication of the Calcutt Report: survey of use of peremptory challenges of potential jurors by defence counsel) 1985 Dec 16 1986 Jul 9 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 41
PREM19/1826 Legal Procedure (Possible reform of the law on rape) 1981 Jan 6 1986 Nov 11 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 151
PREM19/2295 Legal Procedure (Legal powers: challenges to the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) and other departments; Judicial Review) (Part 1) 1985 Dec 4 1987 Oct 19 2016 Jul 21 Confidential and Management in Confidence 145
PREM19/2291 Legal Procedure (Jury vetting) 1979 Sep 20 1985 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30 Secret 27
PREM19/2294 Legal Procedure (Judges and the media) 1988 Mar 8 1988 Mar 31 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 10
PREM19/2293 Legal Procedure (Increase in number of Lords Justices of Appeal) 1987 Oct 21 1987 Oct 22 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 7
PREM19/2292 Legal Procedure (Civil Justice Review) 1984 Dec 10 1988 Jun 20 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 36
PREM19/3421 Lebanon ​​​​​​​(Internal situation: UK/Lebanese relations)(Part 9) 1989 Aug 1 1991 Jul 31 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/3420 Labour Party ​​​​​​​(Speeches and interviews given by Labour MPs) 1979 Nov 1 1991 Jun 17 2017 Jul 20

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