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?sort descending File classification Pages
PREM19/162 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 17 1980 Jan 25 2010 Dec 30 Secret 297
PREM19/2917 Broadcasting (Television licence fees: Broadcasting Bill) (Part 10) 1989 Nov 1 1990 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 320
PREM19/3609 Angola (Internal situation: UK/Angola relations)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1988 Sep 1 1992 Dec 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2604 Civil Service (Facilities agreement for non-industrial Civil Service unions) 1979 Dec 14 1989 Oct 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1774 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste) (Part 21) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1095 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; plant closures; future of Ian MacGregor, chairman of British Steel Corporation (BSC)) (Part 12) 1982 Dec 1 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 368
PREM19/758 Foreign policy (Third United Nations Law of the Sea Conference; extension of the UK territorial sea) 1980 May 6 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 Secret 322
PREM19/423 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 8) 1981 Jan 2 1981 Jun 10 2011 Dec 30 Secret 256
PREM19/4532 Civil Service (Introduction of new technology into the Civil Service: Project Gemstone; Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) in government departments) (Part 3) 1986 May 16 1992 Jul 26 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3195 Transport (Severn Bridge: Second Severn Crossing) 1982 Jun 14 1990 Mar 28 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 307
PREM19/3785 Histories (Official History of British Intelligence in the Second World War: Regimental History of the Intelligence Corps) 1980 Jan 1 1992 Oct 12 2017 Dec 29 Secret 161
PREM19/2345 National Health (Medical ethics (bioethics); Warnock Report on Human Fertilisation and Embryology; DNA profiling) (Part 2) 1986 Jul 29 1988 Feb 23 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 269
PREM19/2473 Royal Family (The Prince of Wales' Special Projects Unit) 1987 Jul 29 1987 Sep 1 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1694 Defence (Arms control) (Part 8) 1986 Mar 5 1986 Jun 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret UK Eyes A 321
PREM19/1020 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 19) 1982 Nov 4 1983 Jan 31 2019 Jan 1 Unknown

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