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
PREM19/2408 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
PREM19/2247 Industrial Policy (Industrial production) 1987 Jul 14 1987 Aug 10 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 29
PREM19/915 Security (Fire precautions at Chequers; fire in telecommunications room, September 1982) 1978 Feb 23 1982 Sep 20 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 59
PREM19/883 Prime Minister (Meetings with Robert Kilroy-Silk MP to discuss closures of factories in his Ormskirk constituency) 1981 Mar 5 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 36
PREM19/2480 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's reception for industrial designers, January 1987) 1986 Jan 7 1987 Feb 9 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 87
PREM19/2410 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with John Browne MP, 21 October 1986: discussion of proposed M3 extension around Winchester. Note:Â With maps) 1981 Dec 7 1987 Apr 10 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 72
PREM19/884 Prime Minister (Meetings with Geoffrey Robinson MP to discuss redundancies in Jaguar factories in Coventry) 1981 Jun 1 1982 Jan 21 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 28
PREM19/8 Civil Service (Stock Criticisms) 1979 Dec 31 1979 Dec 31 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 15
PREM19/2411 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Carrington, Lord Windlesham and Jacob Rothschild to discuss museum buildings, 23 October 1987) 1987 Jul 21 1987 Oct 23 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 28
PREM19/1041 Government machinery (Publicity for open structure appointments) 1983 Oct 4 1983 Oct 20 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 5
PREM19/103 Prime Minister (Meeting with British Council of Churches Oct 1979) 1979 May 9 1979 Oct 17 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 41
PREM19/886 Prime Minister (Meeting with Sir Ernest Harrison, Chairman of Racal Electronics Ltd) 1981 Oct 30 1982 Feb 10 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 19
PREM19/74 Industrial policy (Employee stock ownership - correspondence with US Senator) 1979 Jul 31 1979 Sep 3 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 16
PREM19/2441 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Invitations, declined, from organisations in Israel) 1980 Jul 8 1987 Mar 25 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 9
PREM19/887 Prime Minister (Meeting with Albert Booth MP to discuss closure of Derwest Jennings factory in Barrow-in-Furness) 1982 Feb 2 1982 Jul 20 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 30

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