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.

 

File name Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/1109 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Dr Edmund Marshall MP: closure of GEC Small Machines Ltd factory at Thorne and Thornhill's chicken processing factory at Stainforth) Begins: 1981 May 12 Ends: 1983 Feb 4 Date of release: 2013 Aug 1 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 46
PREM19/2003 Windward Islands (UK/Windward Island relations) Begins: 1985 Jan 31 Ends: 1985 Feb 15 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 27
PREM19/3114 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's speech at Conrad Black dinner, 21 June 1988, and meeting with Conrad Black and the Board of Hollinger, 6 September 1989) Begins: 1988 Jun 21 Ends: 1990 Apr 2 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 34
PREM19/1171 Arts and amenities (The Royal Academy Appeal) Begins: 1984 Jun 8 Ends: 1984 Dec 31 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 44
PREM19/2804 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Professor Abdus Salam, May 1989) Begins: 1989 Apr 21 Ends: 1989 May 8 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 28
PREM19/2418 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Irina Ratushinskaya, 22 December 1986) Begins: 1986 Dec 19 Ends: 1988 Jun 13 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 9
PREM19/3431 Local Government (Waste regulation: the role and functions of waste disposal authorities) Begins: 1989 Jan 9 Ends: 1991 Jan 29 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 90
PREM19/299 National Health (Fluoridation of water supplies; correspondence with Sir Emmanuel Kaye) Begins: 1979 Aug 9 Ends: 1980 Mar 27 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 69
PREM19/708 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 12) Begins: 1981 Dec 17 Ends: 1982 Jan 4 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 140
PREM19/582 Royal family (Duke of Edinburgh's statement on nuclear war: correspondence between the Duke and Fenner Brockway, Lord Brockway) Begins: 1981 Feb 12 Ends: 1981 Apr 9 Date of release: 2015 Apr 22 Any docs withheld? 16 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 34
PREM19/3090 Ministers (Presence of Ministers in the House of Commons) Begins: 1990 Apr 11 Ends: 1990 Apr 18 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 6
PREM19/3381 Home Affairs (Notting Hill Carnival) Begins: 1979 Aug 24 Ends: 1991 Jul 22 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 37
PREM19/145 Civil Service (Proposal to close Public Record Office research room in Chancery Lane) Begins: 1980 Feb 14 Ends: 1980 Apr 22 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 23
PREM19/2422 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Sir Brandon Rhys Williams MP) Begins: 1986 Nov 11 Ends: 1987 Nov 25 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 72
PREM19/1052 Home affairs (Prison workshops and the Priority Suppliers Scheme) Begins: 1983 Mar 10 Ends: 1983 May 3 Date of release: 2013 Aug 1 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 28

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