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
PREM19/337 Prime Minister (Meeting with delegation from Kingston upon Hull on 24 April 1980 to discuss problems of the fishing industry) 1980 Apr 1 1980 May 1 2010 Dec 30 Restricted 75
PREM19/4530 Civil Service (Civil servants contacts with members of the opposition and members of parliament) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 24 1994 Apr 21 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3333 Foreign Policy (Allegations concerning war crimes: War Crimes Inquiry; War Crimes Bill) (Part 3) 1990 Jan 1 1991 May 1 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 212
PREM19/3960 Trade (Merchant shipping: shipping cabotage; fiscal issues; defence needs) 1988 Jan 21 1992 Jul 9 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 174
PREM19/2238 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 12) 1988 May 3 1988 Jul 29 2016 Jul 21 Secret 404
PREM19/2956 Education (General policy on education) (Part 25) 1990 Apr 2 1990 May 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1609 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Sean Hughes MP on the closure of Huntley and Palmer biscuit factory in Knowsley and Plessey Telecommunications plant in Huyton) 1983 Nov 10 1985 Jul 25 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/106 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 1) 1979 Apr 30 1979 May 31 2009 Dec 30 Secret 321
PREM19/1269 Housing (Organisation and structure of building societies; mortgage rates; review of house purchase finance) (Part 1) 1979 May 22 1984 Jun 29 2014 Jan 3 Secret 315
PREM19/934 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail unions' industrial action; contingency planning; McCarthy report on railway productivity and pay; rail fare increases) (Part 5) 1982 Jun 28 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 265
PREM19/598 Trade (Britain's international trading policies; non-tariff barriers; effects on UK industry of open trading system) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 2 1981 Oct 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 167
PREM19/258 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland (BL)) (Part 2) 1979 Dec 14 1980 Mar 10 2010 Dec 30 Secret 161
PREM19/4025 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: Canadian Constitution; British North America Acts) (Part 7) 1990 Aug 4 1993 Sep 8 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2687 Foreign Policy (Correspondence with and about George Soros: economic proposals concerning the Soviet Union and Poland) 1987 Sep 3 1989 Sep 8 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 108
PREM19/2140 Energy (Release of 30 year old records about the Windscale fire in 1957) 1987 Feb 23 1987 Oct 2 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 9

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