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.

 

File name Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld?sort descending File classification Pages
PREM19/2424 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Sir Peter Emery MP, 22 January 1987) 1986 Jul 23 1987 Jan 22 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 28
PREM19/1904 Prime Minister (Meetings with the National Pensioners Conventions, February 1982 to March 1986) (part 1) 1979 May 30 1986 Mar 27 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2572 Yemen (Internal situation in the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY): evacuation of British subjects and others) 1980 Apr 22 1988 Oct 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/189 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Venice) (Part 4) [Part 5 of this file has been destroyed] 1980 Jun 20 1980 Aug 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 189
PREM19/1761 France (Internal situation) (Part 2) 1982 Feb 5 1986 Sep 24 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 290
PREM19/1418 Agriculture (Agricultural expenditure) (Part 1) 1983 Sep 23 1985 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 307
PREM19/1082 Local government (Future of rating system; alternatives to domestic rates; rate limitation schemes) (Part 2) 1982 Jul 23 1983 Jun 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 334
PREM19/439 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 5) 1981 Feb 18 1981 Jul 10 2011 Dec 30 Secret 227
PREM19/4458 Sport (Britain's sporting achievements: review of sport 1987-1988: review of sports policy) 1987 Feb 11 1993 Jul 9 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3873 Parliament (Cost of Parliamentary questions) 1982 Jul 15 1992 Jan 15 2017 Dec 29 Unclassified 23
PREM19/756 Foreign policy (Relations with Allies) 1980 Jul 9 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 67
PREM19/2331 Morocco (UK/Moroccan relations: visit to UK by King Hassan) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 27 1987 Nov 27 Closed or retained
PREM19/2391 Posts and Telecommunications (Future of the Post Office; Sale of the Government's Cable and Wireless shares; British Telecom (BT) and National Girobank) (Part 10) 1985 Aug 1 1987 Sep 18 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1681 Canada (Prime Minister's Visit to Canada, July 1986: Vancouver Transportation Exposition 1986 (Expo 86)) 1981 Jul 8 1986 Sep 12 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1338 Parliament (Article in ‘The Listener’ by Julian Critchley MP alleging breach of pairing rules by Tom Pendry MP in 1976 vote: Pendry's action against Critchley; possible disclosure of report by Government and Opposition Whips in June 1976 to Prime Minister Callaghan) 1976 Jun 18 1984 Oct 12 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 15

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