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 descending Pages
PREM19/904 Science and Technology (Presentation on information technology) 1982 Feb 18 1982 May 20 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 47
PREM19/965 Civil service (Lecture on the Civil Service given by Sir John Hoskyns) 1982 Oct 15 1982 Dec 9 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 55
PREM19/1906 Prime Minister (Gift of moon dust to the people of the UK from President Nixon of the USA) 1970 Feb 10 1985 Jan 18 2015 Dec 30 Unclassified 178
PREM19/905 Scotland (Scottish Milk Marketing Board (SMMB): correspondence with Dr W G Jack about SMMB’s decision to extend the operation of its tanker fleet) 1979 Sep 26 1982 Jan 22 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 161
PREM19/2402 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Allen Adams MP to discuss Babcock Power, 20 January 1987) 1986 Dec 23 1987 Jan 20 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 14
PREM19/91 Local government (Remuneration of local councillors) 1979 Jul 23 1979 Nov 19 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 12
PREM19/3126 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings and correspondence with Sir Hector Laing, Chairman of United Biscuits) 1980 Apr 1 1990 Mar 2 2017 Jul 20 Unclassified 75
PREM19/3472 Parliament (Availability of Hansard: arrangements for the publication of Written Answers) 1980 Mar 3 1991 Oct 25 2017 Jul 20 Unclassified 87
PREM19/907 Security (German occupation of the Channel Islands: allegations by Solomon Steckoll against Channel Islands officials) 1980 Sep 24 1982 Mar 11 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 27
PREM19/63 Government machinery (Ministerial responsibility for population matters) 1979 Jun 1 1979 Jun 4 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 4
PREM19/2924 Civil Service (Proposal by Anne Sloman and Hugo Young of Radio 4 for a radio series on the Treasury: proposed series by the BBC on 'Pillars of State') 1982 Nov 30 1990 Mar 23 2016 Dec 30 Unclassified 21
PREM19/3606 Agriculture (Agricultural and food research)​​​​​​​ (Part 2) 1990 Jun 4 1992 Jan 20 2017 Dec 29 Unclassified 46
PREM19/1755 European Policy (European Institute of Public Administration at Maastricht) 1981 Nov 19 1986 Aug 18 2014 Dec 30 Unclassified 17
PREM19/1618 Royal Family (Broadlands Archives: transfer to Southampton University of papers of Lord Mountbatten) 1985 Jul 8 1985 Sep 24 2016 Dec 30 Unclassified 18
PREM19/2240 Housing (Prime Minister's meeting with Professor Alice Coleman to discuss housing design: subsequent action) 1987 Dec 18 1988 Mar 9 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 24

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