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
PREM19/820 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summit, Rome, July 1982) [= Anglo-Italian Summits Part 2?) 1982 Jun 18 1982 Jul 6 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/144 Civil Service (Pay and Pensions: reports by Government Actuary’s Department and Civil Service Pay Research Unit) 1979 May 17 1980 May 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 144
PREM19/3018 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; value for money seminars; Next Steps initiative) (Part 33) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Mar 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/485 Home affairs (Powers of entry: review by David Mitchell, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at Department of Industry; enforcement powers of Revenue Departments; European Commission powers of entry) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 23 1981 Sep 25 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 244
PREM19/3635 Commonwealth (Reports by Commonwealth Secretary-General: activities of the Commonwealth Secretariat) (Part 2) 1987 May 5 1992 Jun 30 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 119
PREM19/2419 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Robert Key MP, 28 April 1987) 1988 Apr 19 1988 Apr 27 2016 Jul 21 Restricted 7
PREM19/1899 Prime Minister (Meeting with Terry Lewis MP about Walkden Workshops) 1986 Aug 18 1986 Sep 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2566 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, July 1987) (Part 1) 1987 Jun 12 1987 Jul 23 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1756 European Policy (European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR): impact of European Court of Human Rights findings on UK domestic law) (Part 1) 1980 Nov 12 1986 May 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/63 Government machinery (Ministerial responsibility for population matters) 1979 Jun 1 1979 Jun 4 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 4
PREM19/1413 Aerospace (Space policy: formation of British National Space Centre (BNSC)) (Part 1) 1980 Jun 20 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 265
PREM19/1077 Lebanon (Internal situation; Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 5B) 1983 Dec 4 1983 Dec 30 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 234
PREM19/740 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 16) 1982 May 17 1982 Jun 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 195
PREM19/405 Civil service (Cynon Valley Borough Council dispute with Welsh Office over allocation of funds for highway maintenance) 1981 Feb 9 1981 Jun 10 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 24
PREM19/4828 Mexico (Anglo-Mexican relations: internal situation in Mexico) (Part 2) 1986 Aug 25 1994 Dec 5 2018 Dec 28

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