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
PREM19/1025 European policy (European Council meeting, Athens, December 1983) (Part 13) 1982 Oct 15 1983 Dec 8 2013 Aug 1 2 Secret 181
PREM19/43 Energy (Energy Policy) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 17 1979 Oct 30 2009 Dec 30 Secret 232
PREM19/2353 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: British Gas privatisation; privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 13) 1986 Oct 2 1987 Oct 2 2016 Jul 21 Secret 222
PREM19/1581 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 18) 1985 Jun 3 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 375
PREM19/559 Poland (Internal situation; economic assistance to Poland) (Part 2) 1980 Dec 1 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/137 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 4) 1980 Feb 28 1980 Apr 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/1332 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 11) 1984 Jul 19 1984 Aug 31 2014 Jan 3 3 Secret 304
PREM19/2458 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Turkey, April 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jan 5 1988 May 12 2016 Dec 30 15 Secret 220
PREM19/11 Cuba (Soviet ground forces) 1979 Sep 5 1979 Dec 17 2009 Dec 30 Secret 28
PREM19/1206 Economic policy (G7 Summit - London) (Part 14) 1983 Jan 28 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3 Secret 327
PREM19/2315 Manpower (Special employment measures: employment and training programmes and organisation) (Part 15) 1986 Nov 4 1987 Apr 28 2016 Jul 21 Secret 352
PREM19/869 Parliament (MPs' pay and pensions; Top Salaries Review Body report on Parliamentary pay; report by Select Committee) (Part 4) 1980 Dec 3 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 165
PREM19/2157 European Policy (European Council meeting, Copenhagen, December 1987) (Part 27) 1986 Sep 22 1987 Dec 14 2016 Dec 30 5 Secret 331
PREM19/1174 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; Civil Service manpower; personnel work in Civil Service; the extension of unified grading; equal opportunities) (Part 14) 1983 Oct 3 1984 Jan 25 2014 Jan 3 Secret 368
PREM19/621 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 10) 1982 Apr 23 1982 Apr 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 300

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