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 Beginssort descending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/3678 Economic Policy (Meetings of National Economic Development Council (NEDC): abolition of NEDC and National Economic Development Office (NEDO)) (Part 14) 1986 Apr 14 1992 Jun 23 2017 Dec 29 Secret 243
PREM19/1731 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 7) 1986 Apr 15 1986 Oct 2 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1747 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): reform of CAP; Green Pound; agricultural land and rural employment) (Part 14) 1986 Apr 17 1986 Nov 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2484 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing at) (Part 5) 1986 Apr 17 1988 May 27 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1831 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; United States response to Libyan terrorism) (Part 5) 1986 Apr 17 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30 Retained under Section 3:4
PREM19/1832 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations) (Part 6) 1986 Apr 17 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30 Retained under Section 3:4
PREM19/3656 Disasters (Chernobyl: Soviet nuclear accident, 26 April 1986) (Part 1) 1986 Apr 29 1992 Sep 21 2017 Dec 29 9 Top Secret 299
PREM19/2475 Saudi Arabia (Internal situation: relations with UK) 1986 May 1 1987 Feb 26 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1871 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy; British Shipbuilders) (Part 10) 1986 May 1 1986 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2156 European Policy (European Council meeting, Brussels, June 1987) (Part 26) 1986 May 1 1987 Jul 1 2019 Jul 18
PREM19/2297 Libya (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 7) 1986 May 1 1987 Feb 27 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1802 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland) (Part 11) 1986 May 1 1986 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 Secret 239
PREM19/1803 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland/Rover Group) (Part 12) 1986 May 1 1986 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 1 Secret and Personal 294
PREM19/1840 Manpower (Employment policy: employment measures; review of employment policies) (Part 14) 1986 May 2 1986 Oct 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1684 Civil Service (Long term management and manpower policy: duties and responsibilities of civil servants; performance bonuses) (Part 19) 1986 May 2 1986 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30

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