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 classification Pagessort descending Link to selections
PREM19/1013 Elections (Procedure for General Elections: actions to be taken by Prime Minister's Office; allocation of official residences; questions of procedure for Ministers; Ministerial travel; Queen's speech on opening of Parliament) 1970 Aug 4 1982 Jul 19 Retained Unknown
PREM19/3340 Foreign Policy ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meetings with the Foreign Secretary)(Part 2) 1987 Oct 20 1990 Dec 18 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3960 Trade (Merchant shipping: shipping cabotage; fiscal issues; defence needs) 1988 Jan 21 1992 Jul 9 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2955 Education (General policy on education) (Part 24) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Mar 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2123 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: national curriculum; education in Scotland and Wales; Education Reform Bill; financial delegation; Government response to Education, Science and Arts Select Committee report) (Part 16) 1987 Nov 2 1987 Dec 30 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/1609 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Sean Hughes MP on the closure of Huntley and Palmer biscuit factory in Knowsley and Plessey Telecommunications plant in Huyton) 1983 Nov 10 1985 Jul 25 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1269 Housing (Organisation and structure of building societies; mortgage rates; review of house purchase finance) (Part 1) 1979 May 22 1984 Jun 29 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3473 Parliament ​​​​​​​(House of Commons procedure: Select Committees)(Part 11) 1990 Jun 5 1991 Jul 15 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2661 Environmental Affairs (The litter problem in the UK: briefing on the City of Westminster Bill; Westminster Initiative Report; part 1. Note:Â With photographs) (Part 1) 1985 Dec 11 1989 Apr 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2128 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 9) 1986 Nov 3 1987 Mar 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2765 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 14) 1989 Aug 1 1989 Oct 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1887 Portugal (UK/Portugal relations; internal situation; death of Dr Francisco de Sa Carneiro; Prime Minister's meeting with Dr Mario Soares, 14 February 1984)(Part 1) 1979 Jul 7 1986 May 2 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2862 South Africa (Situation in Namibia) (Part 4) 1986 Mar 3 1989 Apr 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3593 Economic Policy ​​​​​​​(Friendly Societies legislation) 1989 Dec 12 1991 Oct 7 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1960 Social Services (Review of National Insurance position of the self-employed; assistance to small businesses; Prime Minister's meeting with National Federation of Self Employed and Small Businesses Ltd) 1980 May 15 1986 Jan 19 2016 Feb 19

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