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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/958 Arts and amenities (Policy towards the arts; private sponsorship; financial scrutiny) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 26 1983 Nov 23 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 288
PREM19/147 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 10 1980 Apr 10 2010 Dec 30 Secret 162
PREM19/3219 Australia ​​​​​​​(Call on the Prime Minister by Bill Hayden, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, May 1984; meeting with John Howard, Leader of the Australian Opposition, July 1988) 1981 Jan 19 1991 Aug 14 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/623 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 12) 1982 Apr 30 1982 May 2 2012 Dec 28 Secret 231
PREM19/2201 Government Machinery (Review of the Lobby system of briefing journalists) 1981 Oct 27 1987 Jul 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2896 Disasters (Fire at King's Cross Underground Station, 18 November 1989) 1987 Nov 19 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2130 Education (Future of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA)) (Part 4) 1984 Apr 3 1987 Jul 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1278 Industrial policy (Wages Councils; review of Fair Wages Resolution 1946) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 26 1982 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/66 Home affairs (Sale of Isle of Iona) 1979 May 21 1979 Jun 7 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 12
PREM19/3358 Government Hospitality​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​(The standard of catering and service provided by the Government Hospitality Fund: recommendation that government hospitality be subject to a Rayner study​​​​​​​) 1979 Jul 5 1991 May 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/542 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy; industrial energy pricing) (Part 3) 1980 Oct 20 1981 Mar 12 2011 Dec 30 Secret 230
PREM19/2578 Defence (Rundown of Royal Dockyards at Chatham and Portsmouth: Chatham Historic Dockyard) 1982 Apr 19 1986 Jul 11 2016 Jul 21 Confidential and Management in Confidence 21
PREM19/2052 Defence (Armed Forces pay; Service doctors' and dentists' pay; London weighting) (Part 3) 1986 Apr 11 1987 Jul 16 2015 Dec 30 Personal and Confidential 70
PREM19/408 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy; Sir Derek Rayner's recommendations for reforms; Civil Service numbers and costs; performance related pay) (Part 7) 1980 Nov 18 1981 Mar 6 2011 Dec 30 Secret 224
PREM19/2718 Home Affairs (Government support for voluntary bodies) (Part 1) 1985 Mar 11 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30

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