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
PREM19/281 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 7) 1980 Jun 5 1980 Aug 5 2010 Dec 30 1 Secret 156
PREM19/2321 Manpower (Strategy for industry and employment: White Paper 'Employment, the Challenge for the Nation') (Part 4) 1985 Mar 5 1988 May 4 2016 Jul 21 Secret 199
PREM19/969 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Delhi, November 1983: policy) (Part 5) 1983 Jul 25 1983 Nov 18 2013 Aug 1 5 Secret 352
PREM19/1313 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; Youth Training Scheme; review of Community Programme) (Part 10) 1983 Jul 1 1984 Oct 31 2014 Jan 3 Secret 357
PREM19/844 Ministers (Ministerial travel overseas: general policy) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 191
PREM19/1187 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 10) 1983 May 4 1984 Apr 12 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 121
PREM19/3413 Japan (UK/Japanese relations: UK-Japan 2000 Group; exports to Japan) (Part 9) 1989 Sep 7 1991 Feb 28 2017 Dec 29 Secret 295
PREM19/32 Economic policy (Privatization) (Part 2) 1979 Jul 23 1979 Dec 19 2009 Dec 30 Secret 115
PREM19/721 Economic policy (Liaison Committee on presentation of government policies; guidance to Ministers and MPs) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 1 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 240
PREM19/249 Government Machinery (Future of Civil Service Department; integration with the Treasury; Select Committee consideration) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 14 1980 Jul 4 2010 Dec 30 Secret 215
PREM19/595 Security (Leak to 'The Times' of Cabinet proceedings on public expenditure) 1981 Oct 21 1981 Oct 28 2011 Dec 30 Secret 18
PREM19/1281 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 10) 1983 Mar 4 1984 Apr 28 2014 Jan 3 Secret 274
PREM19/2291 Legal Procedure (Jury vetting) 1979 Sep 20 1985 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30 Secret 27
PREM19/3860 Nationalised Industries (Financial position of the coal industry: coal strategy; British Coal privatisation; colliery closures) (Part 22) 1990 Jul 2 1992 Jan 31 2017 Dec 29 Secret 315
PREM19/815 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 11) 1982 Feb 4 1982 Jun 30 2012 Dec 28 7 Secret 133

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