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? File classificationsort ascending Pages
PREM19/3349 Gabon (UK/Gabon relations) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 3 1991 Mar 12 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 122
PREM19/1101 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Stanley Thorne MP about job losses at Preston factory of Rockwell Graphic Systems Ltd) 1983 Apr 20 1983 May 13 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 15
PREM19/1792 Home Affairs (Obscenity legislation (video nasties): meetings with Mary Whitehouse) 1983 May 18 1986 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 266
PREM19/2485 Security (Correspondence between Tam Dalyell MP and Prime Minister concerning the programme 'Cabinet') 1988 Aug 28 1988 Oct 7 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 21
PREM19/3071 Manpower (Special employment measures: training policy; pilot schemes of training credits for young people) (Part 24) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 264
PREM19/1668 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 3) 1986 Jan 12 1986 Jan 24 2016 Feb 19 Confidential 318
PREM19/40 Economic policy (Executive perks) 1979 Jul 16 1979 Dec 18 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 87
PREM19/388 Agriculture (Proposed energy subsidies to horticulture and fisheries industries to combat 'unfair' foreign competition) 1980 Mar 21 1981 Apr 28 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 21
PREM19/729 Education (Report on education in Toxteth) 1982 May 7 1982 May 24 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 26
PREM19/1072 Ivory Coast (Visit to UK by President Houphouet-Boigny, July 1983: meeting with Prime Minister) 1982 Oct 11 1983 Aug 1 2013 Aug 1 1 Confidential 136
PREM19/3597 Egypt (Prime Minister's meetings with the Egyptian Ambassador) 1980 Aug 2 1991 Sep 17 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 46
PREM19/257 India (Call on Prime Minister by Swraj Paul, Vice Chairman, Indo/British Association, July 1980; Indo-British exchange conference) 1980 Jun 18 1980 Jul 16 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 26
PREM19/603 Venezuela (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister, Dr Zambrano Valesco, June 1981) 1981 May 8 1981 Jun 26 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 26
PREM19/945 Vatican (Vatican delegation to Heads of State about nuclear weapons; meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Dec 14 1982 Jan 29 2013 Jul 25 Confidential 59
PREM19/2301 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 33) 1987 Aug 4 1987 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 246

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