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
PREM19/64 Government machinery (Judges' expenses) Begins: 1979 Oct 19 Ends: 1979 Oct 30 Date of release: 2009 Dec 30 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 10
PREM19/2411 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Carrington, Lord Windlesham and Jacob Rothschild to discuss museum buildings, 23 October 1987) Begins: 1987 Jul 21 Ends: 1987 Oct 23 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 28
PREM19/3291 Economic Policy (Speeches by the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England) (Part 3) Begins: 1986 Oct 16 Ends: 1991 Jul 2 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 381
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 Aug 1 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 178
PREM19/94 Ministers (Propriety of appointing Minister likely to become MEP) Begins: 1979 May 8 Ends: 1979 May 16 Date of release: 2009 Dec 30 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 12
PREM19/2441 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Invitations, declined, from organisations in Israel) Begins: 1980 Jul 8 Ends: 1987 Mar 25 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 9
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 Dec 28 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 6
PREM19/3920 Royal Family (Precedence of Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on Royal visits) Begins: 1982 Dec 9 Ends: 1992 Jul 20 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 85
PREM19/1160 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; annexes to report by Professor Patrick Minford, 'UK unemployment - analysis and policy proposals') (Part 8C) Begins: 1982 Sep 6 Ends: 1983 Jan 29 Date of release: 2013 Aug 1 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 355
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 Dec 28 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 43
PREM19/3787 Home Affairs (Animal welfare matters) (Part 2) Begins: 1990 Jun 13 Ends: 1992 Feb 27 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 Any docs withheld? 2 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 82
PREM19/315 Nationalised Industries (Correspondence with Alan Newman Ltd about contract for conversion of liner into floating hotel: negative response from Harland and Wolff and British Shipbuilders) Begins: 1980 Jul 2 Ends: 1980 Aug 4 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 14
PREM19/662 Broadcasting (Study of impact of television on schoolchildren) Begins: 1982 Jan 8 Ends: 1982 Dec 13 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 100
PREM19/66 Home affairs (Sale of Isle of Iona) Begins: 1979 May 21 Ends: 1979 Jun 7 Date of release: 2009 Dec 30 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 12
PREM19/1793 Home Affairs (The 1978 annual report by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC): financing of the NSPCC) Begins: 1979 Jul 2 Ends: 1986 Jan 22 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 4 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 84

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