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
PREM19/177 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 7 1980 May 2 2010 Dec 30 Secret 214
PREM19/2863 South Africa (Visit to UK by F W de Klerk, leader of the South African National Party, June 1989) 1980 Feb 12 1989 Jul 11 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3594 Economic Policy ​​​​​​​(Indebtedness of various countries: Treasury reports on international debt)​​​​​​​ (Part 8) 1989 Jul 7 1991 Oct 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1959 Social Services (Reform of social security: pensions, housing benefit and supplementary benefit; child support) (Part 4) 1985 Dec 3 1986 Sep 16 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2633 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - Toronto, June 1988) (Part 26) 1988 Jun 18 1989 Jun 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1789 Home Affairs (The behaviour of British football fans abroad: soccer hooliganism; Popplewell Report on crowd safety and control at sports grounds) (Part 5) 1985 Aug 1 1986 Aug 8 2014 Dec 30 Unclassified 530
PREM19/96 Nationalized industries (Shipbuilding) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Nov 29 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 121
PREM19/1446 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 5) 1985 Jan 2 1985 Oct 25 2015 Jul 16 Secret 357
PREM19/1110 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with local MPs about closures of Wiggins Teape paper machines in Dartford and Thames Board mill at Warrington) 1983 Jan 25 1983 Mar 7 2013 Aug 1 Restricted 49
PREM19/773 Government machinery ('Improving management effectiveness in Government', memorandum by Management Consultants Association; review of financial control in Department of Industry; employment of consultants in government) 1981 Nov 17 1982 Mar 29 2012 Dec 28 Restricted 78
PREM19/438 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 4) 1980 Oct 31 1981 Feb 17 2011 Dec 30 Secret 244
PREM19/3143 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visit to the Conference on the Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) Summit in Paris, November 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Oct 17 1990 Nov 26 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3758 Foreign Policy (Capital punishment in the Dependent Territories​​​​​​​) 1980 Aug 1 1992 Mar 27 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2358 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 13) 1987 Oct 5 1988 Mar 31 2016 Nov 7 Secret 302
PREM19/3190 Trade (Freeports in the UK) 1983 Feb 25 1990 May 3 2016 Dec 30

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