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 Titlesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/2835 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget) (Part 8) Begins: 1988 Dec 1 Ends: 1989 Jun 30 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2836 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget) (Part 9) Begins: 1989 Jul 4 Ends: 1989 Dec 22 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1931 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base; the science budget; the Engineer and Technology Programme; increase in graduate engineers and technologists) (Part 3) Begins: 1985 Apr 2 Ends: 1985 Jun 28 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1932 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base; the science budget; the Engineer and Technology Programme; increase in graduate engineers and technologists; review of involvement in European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN)) (Part 4) Begins: 1985 Jul 2 Ends: 1986 Jul 31 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/904 Science and Technology (Presentation on information technology) Begins: 1982 Feb 18 Ends: 1982 May 20 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 47
PREM19/1936 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's meeting with industrialists and leading academics, February 1985; the Engineering and Technology Programme) Begins: 1985 Oct 28 Ends: 1986 Mar 7 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1933 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's meeting with Sir George Porter, President of the Royal Society) Begins: 1986 May 22 Ends: 1986 Aug 5 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1935 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's seminar and reception for industrial designers, January 1982)(Part 1) Begins: 1981 Oct 19 Ends: 1985 Dec 10 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1934 Science and Technology (Women into Science and Engineering Year, 1984; Prime Minister's meetings with Lady Platt, Chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission) Begins: 1983 Dec 12 Ends: 1986 Jul 7 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2838 Scotland (Scottish High Court judges: possible homosexual scandal) Begins: 1989 Dec 22 Ends: 1989 Dec 22 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/905 Scotland (Scottish Milk Marketing Board (SMMB): correspondence with Dr W G Jack about SMMB’s decision to extend the operation of its tanker fleet) Begins: 1979 Sep 26 Ends: 1982 Jan 22 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 161
PREM19/912 Security ('Doomsday Minus Four' by Larry Clark) Begins: 1982 Jan 14 Ends: 1982 Jan 15 Date of release: Date of release: Retained Sec 3.4 File classification: Unknown
PREM19/918 Security (Activities of Leo Long) Begins: 1981 Nov 2 Ends: 1982 Mar 23 Date of release: Date of release: Retained Sec 3.4 File classification: Unknown
PREM19/2514 Security (Allegations against the Security Service) Begins: 1977 Jul 16 Ends: 1987 Mar 18 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1624 Security (Allegations made to Kenneth Warren MP by John Kane about security standards at Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) establishments) Begins: 1979 Jun 14 Ends: 1984 Mar 26 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30

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