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
PREM19/3368 Government Machinery (Presentation of government policies) (Part 2) 1986 Aug 1 1991 May 31 2017 Jul 20 3 Secret 328
PREM19/1559 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 25) 1985 Jan 1 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 425
PREM19/1091 National health (Management inquiry into National Health Service (NHS) manpower and resources (led by Roy Griffiths of J Sainsbury plc); representations from Ralph Howell MP) 1980 Jul 22 1983 Jul 27 2013 Aug 1 Secret 208
PREM19/1433 Cyprus (Visits to the UK by President Kyprianou: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Dec 10 1985 Jan 14 2014 Dec 30 3 Secret 386
PREM19/2633 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - Toronto, June 1988) (Part 26) 1988 Jun 18 1989 Jun 19 2016 Dec 30 Secret 300
PREM19/410 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Melbourne, September-October 1981: procedure; attendance; agenda) (Part 3) 1981 May 19 1981 Sep 14 2011 Dec 30 Secret 200
PREM19/3574 Transport (British Rail: public transport fares in London; British Rail privatisation)​​​​​​​ (Part 11) 1990 Feb 1 1991 Jul 26 2017 Jul 20 1 Secret 302
PREM19/2772 Manpower (Special employment measures: future of the Employment Service; Training and Enterprise Councils; Youth Training Scheme (YTS) review) (Part 21) 1989 Jan 6 1989 Jul 31 2017 Jul 20 Secret 372
PREM19/279 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland; Northern Ireland Conference, Belfast) (Part 5) 1979 Dec 5 1980 Mar 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 198
PREM19/626 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 15) 1982 May 8 1982 May 10 2012 Dec 28 Secret 260
PREM19/2320 Manpower (Special employment measures: White Paper 'Employment for the 1990s') (Part 20) 1988 Nov 1 1988 Dec 29 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 281
PREM19/1311 Manpower (Strategy for industry and employment; reducing the burden of regulation on the economy; Chequers seminar on employment) (Part 1) 1983 Feb 15 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 339
PREM19/3205 USA (Economic Situation) (Part 4) 1987 Apr 27 1990 Jan 30 2017 Jul 20 4 Secret 384
PREM19/1658 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, February 1985) (Part 4A) 1984 Dec 10 1985 Feb 15 2014 Dec 30 4 Secret 320
PREM19/500 Ireland (Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland) (Part 2) 1981 Feb 5 1981 Jul 21 2011 Dec 30 Secret 220

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