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
PREM19/328 Parliament (Top Salaries Review Body report on Parliamentary pay) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 8 1980 Feb 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 243
PREM19/454 Energy (Proposal for North Sea gas gathering pipeline) 1979 Jul 2 1981 Sep 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 243
PREM19/244 Government Machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the scrutiny programme) (Part 6) 1980 Jun 5 1980 Nov 24 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 243
PREM19/54 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 2) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Oct 25 2009 Dec 30 Secret 244
PREM19/604 Vietnam (Vietnamese refugees; resettlement in the UK) (Part 3) 1979 Jul 17 1981 Feb 28 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 244
PREM19/2557 Transport (Policy on roads: White Paper; review of the roads programme) (Part 3) 1986 Dec 12 1988 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 244
PREM19/671 Civil service (Dispersal programme) (Part 2) 1979 Oct 19 1982 Jun 4 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 244
PREM19/1217 Environmental affairs (Environmental policy: acid rain, pollution control; Environment Committee report; agriculture and conservation; reports of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution) (Part 2) 1984 Jun 1 1984 Oct 31 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 244
PREM19/2563 United Nations (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)) (Part 1) 1979 May 9 1987 Sep 29 2016 Nov 7 Confidential 244
PREM19/692 Defence (Armed forces' pay; service medical and dental officers' pay) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1982 Feb 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 244
PREM19/485 Home affairs (Powers of entry: review by David Mitchell, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at Department of Industry; enforcement powers of Revenue Departments; European Commission powers of entry) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 23 1981 Sep 25 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 244
PREM19/438 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 4) 1980 Oct 31 1981 Feb 17 2011 Dec 30 Secret 244
PREM19/243 Government Machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the scrutiny programme) (Part 5) 1980 Feb 14 1980 May 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 244
PREM19/440 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 7) 1980 Dec 1 1981 Mar 12 2011 Dec 30 Secret 244
PREM19/276 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; US mission to release hostages; sanctions) (Part 6) 1980 Apr 9 1980 Apr 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 244

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