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
PREM19/2615 Defence (Policing of demonstrations at military bases: activities by anti-nuclear demonstrators) (Part 2) 1986 Mar 27 1989 Mar 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/204 Energy (Energy Policy) (Part 4) 1980 Feb 20 1980 May 7 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 207
PREM19/1776 Government Machinery (The 70th anniversary of the Cabinet Office) 1986 Oct 21 1986 Dec 5 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1097 Parliament (Legislative programme, 1983-1984) (Part 10) 1982 Nov 9 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 151
PREM19/454 Energy (Proposal for North Sea gas gathering pipeline) 1979 Jul 2 1981 Sep 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 243
PREM19/4362 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's international commitments: policy on foreign visitors) (Part 2. With slides and negatives) 1988 Sep 8 1992 Dec 14 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/61 Government machinery (Rayner review) (Part 2) 1979 Jul 16 1979 Sep 14 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 124
PREM19/3188 Switzerland (Visit to the UK of the Swiss Foreign Minister Pierre Aubert (April 1984) and his successor Rene Felber (February 1990)) 1984 Jan 31 1990 Feb 15 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 55
PREM19/3783 Government Machinery (Transfer of Ministerial responsibility for zoos and associated matters to the Secretary of State for the Environment: financial support for London Zoo) 1979 Oct 18 1992 Oct 30 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 333
PREM19/2347 National Health (Primary health care: White Paper 'Promoting Better Health') (Part 2) 1987 Nov 2 1988 Jul 20 2016 Jul 21 Secret 207
PREM19/3156 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget) (Part 11) 1990 Apr 2 1990 Dec 28 2016 Dec 30 Secret 212
PREM19/2475 Saudi Arabia (Internal situation: relations with UK) 1986 May 1 1987 Feb 26 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1696 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 6) 1985 Nov 4 1986 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1353 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Barry Jones MP about British Aerospace (BAe) redundancies in Broughton; launch aid for Airbus A320) 1984 Jan 16 1984 Feb 6 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 29
PREM19/1015 Energy (Government evidence to inquiry on coal mining in Vale of Belvoir) 1979 Jul 16 1983 Mar 4 2013 Aug 1 Secret 133

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