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
PREM19/3852 Ministers (Departmental responsibilities of the Whips) (Part 1) Begins: 1986 Oct 29 Ends: 1992 Apr 15 Date of release: 2017-12-29 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 10
PREM19/2659 Environmental Affairs (Benson Building, Islington) (Part 12) Begins: 1989 Jul 3 Ends: 1989 Jul 18 Date of release: 2016-12-30 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 5
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: 2010-12-30 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 23
PREM19/907 Security (German occupation of the Channel Islands: allegations by Solomon Steckoll against Channel Islands officials) Begins: 1980 Sep 24 Ends: 1982 Mar 11 Date of release: 2012-12-28 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 27
PREM19/2639 Economic Policy (Correspondence with Sir Emmanuel Kaye on capital taxation) Begins: 1979 Oct 3 Ends: 1989 Jul 21 Date of release: 2016-12-30 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 21
PREM19/3197 Transport (British Maritime League: Britain's merchant fleet) Begins: 1983 Nov 17 Ends: 1990 May 23 Date of release: 2017-07-20 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 36
PREM19/2407 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Gerry Steinberg MP, 23 February 1988) Begins: 1987 Dec 14 Ends: 1988 Mar 18 Date of release: 2016-07-21 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 27
PREM19/845 Ministers (Lord President's participation in BBC Radio 4 programme on the Privy Council) Begins: 1982 Jun 15 Ends: 1982 Jun 22 Date of release: 2012-12-28 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 6
PREM19/2408 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Gordon Brown MP to discuss redundancies and closures in his constituency, 29 January 1987) Begins: 1984 Nov 16 Ends: 1987 Feb 24 Date of release: 2016-07-21 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 55
PREM19/368 Social Services (Action on child abuse; death of Lucy Gates) (Part 3) Begins: 1980 Nov 5 Ends: 1980 Dec 31 Date of release: 2010-12-30 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 16
PREM19/1159 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; report by Professor Patrick Minford, 'UK unemployment - analysis and policy proposals') (Part 8B) Begins: 1982 Sep 6 Ends: 1983 Jan 24 Date of release: 2013-08-01 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 178
PREM19/784 Home affairs (Penlee lifeboat disaster fund; guidance for organisers of disaster appeals) Begins: 1981 Dec 22 Ends: 1982 Mar 9 Date of release: 2012-12-28 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 43
PREM19/662 Broadcasting (Study of impact of television on schoolchildren) Begins: 1982 Jan 8 Ends: 1982 Dec 13 Date of release: 2012-12-28 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 100
PREM19/2480 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's reception for industrial designers, January 1987) Begins: 1986 Jan 7 Ends: 1987 Feb 9 Date of release: 2016-07-21 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 87
PREM19/3233 Cayman Islands (Relations with UK: internal situation) Begins: 1988 Sep 14 Ends: 1990 Dec 17 Date of release: 2017-07-20 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 23

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