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
PREM19/968 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; Financial Management Initiative - draft White Paper; policy on Civil Service numbers; personnel work in Civil Service; the extension of unified grading) (Part 13) 1983 May 26 1983 Sep 20 2013 Aug 1 Secret 245
PREM19/2254 Industrial Policy (Research and development) (Part 5) 1987 Aug 3 1988 Dec 15 2016 Jul 21 Secret 245
PREM19/282 Ireland (Hunger strike at Maze Prison, Northern Ireland; the ‘Dirty Protest’) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 15 1980 Dec 10 2010 Dec 30 2 Secret 245
PREM19/1061 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 9) 1982 Mar 24 1983 Jan 20 2013 Aug 1 Secret 245
PREM19/549 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; British Steel Corporation (BSC) corporate plan; overlap between BSC and private sector; rationalisation of the UK engineering steel making facilities) (Part 9) 1981 Feb 17 1981 Apr 6 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 245
PREM19/2318 Manpower (Special employment measures: White Paper 'Training for Employment') (Part 18) 1987 Dec 1 1988 Feb 29 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 245
PREM19/1195 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 9) 1984 Jan 16 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3 Secret 246
PREM19/2099 Economic Policy (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor of the Exchequer) (Part 2) 1986 Nov 3 1988 Aug 22 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 246
PREM19/433 Economic policy (Inquiry into Value of Pensions (chairman: Sir Bernard Scott); index linked public sector pensions) (Part 2) 1980 Nov 28 1981 Jun 4 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 246
PREM19/978 Defence (Future UK defence policy; the health of the NATO Alliance; review of NATO) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 5 1983 Oct 3 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 246
PREM19/2301 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 33) 1987 Aug 4 1987 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 246
PREM19/1094 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy; withstanding a strike in the gas industry) (Part 8) 1983 Apr 5 1983 Dec 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 246
PREM19/682 Commonwealth (Heads of Government meeting in Melbourne, September-October 1981: records of meetings; Melbourne Declaration; communique) (Part 4) 1981 Sep 15 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 247
PREM19/2164 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 34) 1986 Dec 1 1987 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 247
PREM19/1202 Economic policy (Review of policy on film finance; taxation of film industry; films policy review) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 19 1984 Dec 13 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 247

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