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
PREM19/177 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 7 1980 May 2 2010 Dec 30 Secret 214
PREM19/178 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 4) 1980 May 6 1980 Sep 22 2010 Dec 30 Secret 161
PREM19/1209 Economic policy (G7 Summit - London) (Part 16B) 1984 May 29 1984 Jun 1 2014 Jan 3 Secret 122
PREM19/3379 Home Affairs (Identity cards) (Part 1) 1988 Aug 1 1991 Mar 8 2017 Jul 20 Secret 134
PREM19/1551 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 10) 1985 Oct 1 1985 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 270
PREM19/1425 China (Sino-British relations; defence sales) (Part 2) 1984 Mar 19 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 4 Secret 236
PREM19/54 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 2) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Oct 25 2009 Dec 30 Secret 244
PREM19/402 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; Civil Service pay dispute; industrial action; revised terms of reference for proposed independent inquiry) (Part 5) 1981 May 19 1981 Jun 8 2011 Dec 30 Secret 189
PREM19/743 European policy (European Monetary System (EMS)) (Part 1) 1979 May 7 1982 Feb 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 252
PREM19/271 Industrial policy (Industrial support) (Part 1) 1980 Aug 8 1980 Oct 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 84
PREM19/959 Belize (Future of Belize) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 1 1982 May 4 2013 Aug 1 Secret 252
PREM19/1650 Transport (Channel Fixed Link (Channel Tunnel): economic considerations; discussions with the French) (Part 3) 1985 Apr 1 1985 Dec 24 2014 Dec 30 Secret 309
PREM19/1177 Civil service (Pay and pensions; report of Megaw Committee on pay and conditions; pay negotiations) (Part 13) 1982 Nov 19 1984 Jan 17 2014 Jan 3 Secret 239
PREM19/148 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 2) 1980 Apr 10 1980 Apr 23 2010 Dec 30 Secret 234
PREM19/22 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 5) 1979 Oct 1 1979 Oct 23 2009 Dec 30 Secret 122

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