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.

 

Link to full file File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1578 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 15) 1984 Nov 21 1985 Jan 18 2014 Dec 30 Secret 379
PREM19/1579 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 16) 1985 Jan 21 1985 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 382
PREM19/258 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland (BL)) (Part 2) 1979 Dec 14 1980 Mar 10 2010 Dec 30 Secret 161
PREM19/1801 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland) (Part 10) 1985 Sep 3 1986 Mar 7 2014 Dec 30 Secret 294
PREM19/135 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 6 1980 Jan 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 317
PREM19/1330 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 9) 1984 Apr 3 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3 Secret 270
PREM19/9 Commonwealth (Lusaka Heads of Government Meeting) (CHOGM) (Part 1) 1979 May 18 1979 Jul 31 2009 Dec 30 3 Secret 201
PREM19/1204 Economic policy (Top Salaries Review Body (TSRB) reports on salaries of senior civil servants, senior members of the armed services and judges; salaries of Members of Parliament; TSRB pension awards) (Part 5) 1983 May 3 1984 Feb 27 2014 Jan 3 Secret 242
PREM19/992 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 24) 1983 Jun 6 1983 Aug 25 2013 Aug 1 Secret 431
PREM19/1420 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 39) 1984 Nov 1 1985 Apr 25 2014 Dec 30 Secret 382
PREM19/619 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 8) 1982 Apr 18 1982 Apr 19 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 174
PREM19/2270 Ireland (Correspondence with Reverend William Martin Smyth MP) 1987 Nov 2 1988 Mar 22 2016 Dec 30 Secret 17
PREM19/1740 Energy (Activities and role of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (AEA)) 1984 Mar 2 1986 Mar 11 2014 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/1263 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 12) 1984 Feb 1 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 16 Secret 458
PREM19/1055 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 6) 1983 Apr 20 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 7 Secret 268

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