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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/305 Nationalised Industries (Privatisation) (Part 1) 1979 May 9 1980 Feb 18 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 97
PREM19/306 Nationalised Industries (Privatisation) (Part 2) 1980 Feb 21 1980 Oct 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 150
PREM19/546 Nationalised industries (Privatisation) (Part 3) 1980 Oct 16 1981 Feb 23 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 146
PREM19/547 Nationalised industries (Privatisation) (Part 4) 1981 Mar 3 1981 Sep 18 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 398
PREM19/857 Nationalised industries (Proposed acquisition by British Steel Corporation of US steel company, Kaiser Steel) 1981 Dec 11 1982 Nov 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 96
PREM19/1577 Nationalised Industries (Prospects for steel industry: British Steel Corporation (BSC) future strategy; plant closures) (Part 12) 1983 Jul 7 1985 Aug 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/550 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; British Steel Corporation (BSC) corporate plan; overlap between BSC and private sector; assistance to private sector steel firms) (Part 10) 1981 Apr 7 1981 Dec 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 218
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
PREM19/856 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; British Steel Corporation (BSC) corporate plan; United States action against European Community steel imports; third country imports) (Part 11) 1982 Jan 14 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 150
PREM19/1095 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; plant closures; future of Ian MacGregor, chairman of British Steel Corporation (BSC)) (Part 12) 1982 Dec 1 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 368
PREM19/548 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; the Iron and Steel Bill; British Steel Corporation (BSC) corporate plan) (Part 8) 1980 Dec 4 1981 Feb 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 155
PREM19/2359 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 14) 1988 Apr 5 1988 Sep 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2785 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 15) 1988 Oct 4 1989 Jul 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1871 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy; British Shipbuilders) (Part 10) 1986 May 1 1986 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1324 Nationalised industries (Shipbuilding policy; prospects for British Shipbuilders) (Part 4) 1982 Jul 19 1983 Jun 27 2014 Jan 3

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