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
PREM19/24 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 14 2009 Dec 30 Secret 111
PREM19/371 South Africa (Internal situation) Part 1 1979 Jun 18 1980 Aug 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 235
PREM19/1056 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 7) 1983 Jul 1 1983 Aug 31 2013 Aug 1 Secret 403
PREM19/1619 Science and Technology (Annual Review of Government-funded Research and Development: maintaining the strength of the science base) (Part 2) 1984 Aug 2 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 359
PREM19/2264 Iran (The Shah of Iran's wish to settle in the UK: health and future of the Shah) 1979 May 14 1988 Apr 21 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 40
PREM19/807 Industrial policy (UK newsprint production: closure of Bowater's mill at Ellesmere Port) 1980 Jul 28 1982 Dec 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 254
PREM19/2607 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM), Kuala Lumpur, October 1989) (Part 15) 1989 Oct 1 1989 Oct 21 2016 Dec 30 2 Secret 322
PREM19/1150 USA (Visits by Senator Jesse Helms and John Carbaugh; discussion of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe sanctions and US political matters) 1979 Jun 7 1983 Jul 23 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 97
PREM19/213 Defence (Arms control) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 18 1979 Aug 24 2010 Dec 30 2 Secret 231
PREM19/559 Poland (Internal situation; economic assistance to Poland) (Part 2) 1980 Dec 1 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/1460 Economic policy (Policy towards privatisation: disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions) (Part 12 1984 Apr 4 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 387
PREM19/1335 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 14) 1984 Oct 20 1984 Nov 20 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 333
PREM19/181 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; possible industrial disputes; the pay round) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 19 1980 Jun 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 164
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
PREM19/1212 Education (Future of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA)) (Part 3) 1980 Dec 5 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 212

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