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 ascending File classification Pages
PREM19/2486 Security (Correspondence with Anthony Steven Divall) 1988 May 31 1988 Oct 4 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1700 Downing Street (Libel action by Richard Holt MP against The Teacher magazine: risk that No. 10 staff may be called to give evidence) 1986 Mar 17 1986 May 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/7 Civil Service (Christmas Message) 1979 Nov 20 1979 Nov 26 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 4
PREM19/1357 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Group of Eight, representing the construction industry, October 1982; pressure for greater financial assistance from government; complaint about local authority capital underspend) 1982 Jul 22 1983 Nov 30 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 188
PREM19/1019 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 11) 1983 Feb 9 1983 Nov 30 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 265
PREM19/684 Defence (Special project) 1980 May 9 1982 Nov 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/343 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 13) 1980 Jan 12 1980 Jan 24 2010 Dec 30 Secret 258
PREM19/4860 NATO (Call on the Prime Minister by the Chairman of NATO) 1980 Mar 1 1994 May 18 2019 Feb 6
PREM19/3944 Security (The Bloch Affair) 1989 Jul 25 1992 Sep 2 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2246 Industrial Policy (Ports: National Dock Labour Scheme; Ports of London and Liverpool; Ports Bill) (Part 3) 1985 Feb 18 1987 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21 Secret 269
PREM19/2963 Environmental Affairs (Ban on trading in ivory) 1989 Jun 14 1990 Mar 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2130 Education (Future of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA)) (Part 4) 1984 Apr 3 1987 Jul 30 2016 Jul 21 Secret 267
PREM19/1278 Industrial policy (Wages Councils; review of Fair Wages Resolution 1946) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 26 1982 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 167
PREM19/604 Vietnam (Vietnamese refugees; resettlement in the UK) (Part 3) 1979 Jul 17 1981 Feb 28 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 244
PREM19/264 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 5) 1980 Apr 14 1980 Jul 16 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 192

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