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 classification Pagessort descending Link to selections
PREM19/456 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 8) 1981 Apr 1 1981 Nov 19 2011 Dec 30 Secret 248
PREM19/291 Local Government (Waste in local authority expenditure) 1979 May 8 1980 May 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 248
PREM19/989 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 7) 1983 Jan 31 1983 Sep 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 248
PREM19/821 Japan (Commercial relations with Japan; proposed Nissan car plant in the UK) (Part 1) 1979 May 17 1981 Nov 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 248
PREM19/2430 Prime Minister (Visits to government departments) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 15 1982 Nov 25 2016 Jul 21 2 Confidential 248
PREM19/143 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 1) 1979 May 23 1980 Nov 6 2010 Dec 30 1 Confidential 248
PREM19/1114 Regional policy (Urban Development Corporations; regeneration of Liverpool and London Docklands; Medway Towns; inner city policy and problems) (Part 3) 1981 Nov 19 1983 Aug 9 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 248
PREM19/526 Manpower (Measures against unemployment; youth training; Young Workers Scheme; unemployment and early retirement) (Part 5) 1981 Jul 13 1981 Oct 31 2011 Dec 30 Secret 249
PREM19/2390 Posts and Telecommunications (Pay negotiations in the Post Office and British Telecom (BT): industrial action) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 3 1987 Aug 14 2016 Jul 21 Secret 249
PREM19/744 European policy (Visits to UK by Gaston Thorn, President of the European Commission, and Leo Tindemans, President of the Council of Ministers; meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 29 1982 Sep 14 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 249
PREM19/1188 Defence (Military uses of laser technology in space; anti-satellite systems and arms control; ballistic missile defence; the United States Strategic Defence Initiative) (Part 1) 1979 Dec 24 1984 Dec 22 2014 Jan 3 Secret 249
PREM19/245 Government Machinery (Review of non-departmental public bodies (quangos): report by Sir Leo Pliatzky) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 23 1980 Jan 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 250
PREM19/2554 Trade (Coordination of Ministerial trade promotion visits overseas; reports on major civil overseas sales prospects) 1981 Apr 15 1988 Oct 6 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 250
PREM19/295 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 21 1980 May 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 250
PREM19/463 European policy (European Council meeting in London, November 1981) (Part 8) 1981 Oct 13 1981 Nov 24 2011 Dec 30 Secret 250

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