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
PREM19/891 Prime Minister (Meeting with Hong Kong Association members) 1982 Aug 20 1982 Sep 27 2012 Dec 28 Secret 28
PREM19/1577 Nationalised Industries (Prospects for steel industry: British Steel Corporation (BSC) future strategy; plant closures) (Part 12) 1983 Jul 7 1985 Aug 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/76 Iran (Internal situation, including hostage crisis) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1979 Dec 10 2009 Dec 30 3 Secret 268
PREM19/424 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 9) 1981 Jun 11 1981 Oct 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 272
PREM19/765 Germany (Chancellor Kohl's visit to the UK, October 1982: meetings with the Prime Minister) (Part 6) 1982 Oct 8 1982 Nov 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 90
PREM19/2525 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 15) 1987 Sep 2 1988 May 26 2016 Nov 7 14 Secret 408
PREM19/3542 Social Services (Review of social security benefits: equality in the state pension age) (Part 7) 1990 Mar 26 1991 Nov 27 2017 Jul 20 Secret 345
PREM19/2343 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; draft White Paper) (Part 17) 1988 Dec 20 1988 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21 Secret 171
PREM19/984 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 22) 1983 Jan 24 1983 Jun 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 272
PREM19/1328 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy; gas industry privatisation; Sleipner gas) (Part 9) 1984 Jan 9 1984 Aug 15 2014 Jan 3 Secret 250
PREM19/171 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 4) 1979 Oct 12 1980 Jan 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/1544 Iraq (Visits to UK by Iraqi Deputy Prime Ministers, Taha Ramadhan and Tariq Aziz (also Foreign Minister): meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Nov 23 1985 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30 1 Secret 362
PREM19/3025 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: Working Group on Disruption in the Prison Service; private sector involvement in the remand system) (Part 5) 1989 Feb 2 1990 Mar 20 2016 Dec 30 6 Secret 176
PREM19/1418 Agriculture (Agricultural expenditure) (Part 1) 1983 Sep 23 1985 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 307
PREM19/1079 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 15) 1983 Jan 4 1983 Jun 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 198

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