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
PREM19/1816 Israel (Prime Minister's visit to Israel, May 1986) 1986 Mar 6 1986 Jun 16 2014 Dec 30 Secret DEDIP 239
PREM19/1802 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland) (Part 11) 1986 May 1 1986 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 Secret 239
PREM19/1177 Civil service (Pay and pensions; report of Megaw Committee on pay and conditions; pay negotiations) (Part 13) 1982 Nov 19 1984 Jan 17 2014 Jan 3 Secret 239
PREM19/830 Local government (The water industry: structural change; constitution of Welsh Water Authority; review of land drainage and flood protection) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 31 1982 Oct 4 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 240
PREM19/1006 Economic policy (Consultation with International Monetary Fund (IMF); meetings of IMF and World Bank) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 7 1983 Feb 15 2013 Aug 1 Secret 240
PREM19/2461 Regional Policy (Inner Cities Initiative: development of Canary Wharf and extension of Docklands Light Railway; new Urban Development Corporations) (Part 9) 1986 Dec 2 1987 Apr 28 2016 Jul 21 2 Confidential 240
PREM19/721 Economic policy (Liaison Committee on presentation of government policies; guidance to Ministers and MPs) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 1 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 240
PREM19/335 Prime Minister (Visits to government departments and regional visits) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 27 1980 Jan 11 2010 Dec 30 Secret 240
PREM19/790 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 8 1982 Oct 5 2012 Dec 28 Secret 240
PREM19/2362 Nationalised Industries (Steel Industry: British Steel Corporation (BSC) privatisation) (Part 15) 1987 Oct 1 1988 Nov 23 2016 Jul 21 Secret 240
PREM19/323 Parliament (House of Commons procedure; reorganization of Select Committees; Departmental Select Committees; provision of evidence to Select Committees) (Part 2) 1980 Feb 1 1980 Mar 13 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 240
PREM19/1083 Local government (Industrial action in water industry; contingency planning) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 13 1983 Feb 8 2013 Aug 1 Secret 240
PREM19/414 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 4) 1980 Oct 17 1981 Mar 6 2011 Dec 30 Secret 240
PREM19/544 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: industrial energy pricing; future of British Gas Corporation's appliance retailing activity) (Part 5) 1981 Jun 5 1981 Oct 12 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 241
PREM19/1690 Defence (Public opinion and public debate on nuclear weapons issues) 1982 Oct 18 1986 May 12 2014 Dec 30 2 Secret 241

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