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 releasesort descending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/121 Social services (Benefits) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 19 1979 Dec 20 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 158
PREM19/89 Legal procedure (Authority to order drafting of Bills) 1979 May 17 1979 May 18 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 5
PREM19/54 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 2) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Oct 25 2009 Dec 30 Secret 244
PREM19/22 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 5) 1979 Oct 1 1979 Oct 23 2009 Dec 30 Secret 122
PREM19/122 South Africa (Plessey Radar contract - poss breach UN embargo) 1979 Aug 1 1979 Sep 10 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 42
PREM19/90 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1979 Sep 18 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 228
PREM19/55 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 3) 1979 Oct 25 1979 Nov 30 2009 Dec 30 Secret 329
PREM19/23 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 6) 1979 Oct 24 1979 Nov 19 2009 Dec 30 Secret 292
PREM19/123 South Korea (Call on MT by South Korean Presidential envoy) 1979 May 28 1979 Jun 28 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 26
PREM19/81 Ireland (Northern Ireland situation) (Part 2) 1979 Aug 27 1979 Sep 28 2010 Nov 10 3 Secret 184
PREM19/218 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 6) 1980 Jul 18 1980 Nov 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 207
PREM19/311 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation (BSC); industrial action by steel unions; Lord Lever’s inquiry and recommendations for settlement accepted by BSC and Steel Union) (Part 6) 1980 Mar 12 1980 Jul 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 228
PREM19/186 Economic policy (Pay comparability and the future of the Standing Commission (Clegg Commission); Government response) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1979 Sep 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 193
PREM19/279 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland; Northern Ireland Conference, Belfast) (Part 5) 1979 Dec 5 1980 Mar 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 198
PREM19/156 Commonwealth (Five Power Defence Arrangements: joint exercises; proposal from Prime Minister of Australia) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 11 1980 Oct 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 27

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