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 ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/606 Zimbabwe (Internal situation; aid; relations with South Africa) 1980 Apr 17 1981 Nov 2 2011 Dec 30 Secret 258
PREM19/484 Home affairs (Civil disorder: riots in Brixton, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester & London; Prime Minister's meetings with community leaders; anti-riot equipment for the police; Urban Programme; implications for local authority spending) 1980 Apr 2 1981 Oct 29 2011 Dec 30 Secret 247
PREM19/577 Regional policy (Inner city policy: creation of urban development corporations to assist in regeneration of Liverpool and London Docklands) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 30 1981 Aug 7 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 170
PREM19/452 Energy (Mossmorran ethylene cracker project: possibility of Government assistance) 1981 May 21 1981 Aug 17 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 21
PREM19/546 Nationalised industries (Privatisation) (Part 3) 1980 Oct 16 1981 Feb 23 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 146
PREM19/421 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 16) 1981 Oct 26 1981 Nov 12 2011 Dec 30 Secret 99
PREM19/514 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 4) 1980 Sep 29 1981 Jun 2 2011 Dec 30 Secret 235
PREM19/392 Australia (Transfer of uranium enrichment technology to Australia) 1980 Jul 3 1981 Apr 29 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 27
PREM19/608 Italy (Prime Minister's visit to Italy, November 1980: Anglo/Italian Summit) 1980 Jul 25 1981 Feb 24 2011 Dec 30 Secret 86
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
PREM19/578 Regional policy (Inner city policy: creation of urban development corporations to assist in regeneration of Liverpool and London Docklands) (Part 2) 1981 Aug 11 1981 Oct 20 2011 Dec 30 Secret 312
PREM19/453 Energy (Future of British National Oil Corporation (BNOC); Petroleum and Continental Shelf Bill; Clyde oil field development) (Part 4) 1980 Jul 4 1981 Dec 22 2011 Dec 30 Secret 214
PREM19/547 Nationalised industries (Privatisation) (Part 4) 1981 Mar 3 1981 Sep 18 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 398
PREM19/422 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 17) 1981 Nov 13 1981 Dec 8 2011 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/515 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 5) 1981 Jun 4 1981 Sep 8 2011 Dec 30 Secret 229

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