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.

 

File name Titlesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/3628 Civil Service (Civil Service manpower: early retirement) (Part 5) 1990 Aug 1 1992 Nov 10 2017 Dec 29 Secret 95
PREM19/2922 Civil Service (Dispersal policy: transfer of government work to the regions) (Part 4) 1988 Apr 5 1990 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3235 Civil Service (Dispersal policy: transfer of government work to the regions) (Part 5) 1990 Mar 1 1991 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 387
PREM19/2598 Civil Service (Election of officials in the Civil and Public Services Association (CPSA)) 1981 Nov 13 1986 Jul 7 2016 Dec 30 Secret 10
PREM19/1662 Civil Service (Industrial relations in the Civil Service: Department of Health and Social Security industrial action) 1979 Sep 5 1985 Oct 14 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1683 Civil Service (Long term management and manpower policy: control of civil service running costs; duties and responsibilities of civil servants; performance bonus experiment; budgeting in government dePartments) (Part 18) 1985 Sep 10 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1684 Civil Service (Long term management and manpower policy: duties and responsibilities of civil servants; performance bonuses) (Part 19) 1986 May 2 1986 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3629 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: financial management; market testing in the Civil Service; Individual Merit Promotion (IMP) Scheme; recruitment) (Part 22) 1989 Jan 5 1992 Jun 2 2017 Dec 29 4 Confidential 256
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
PREM19/967 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; policy on Civil Service numbers, Financial Management Initiative; response to Select Committee report on efficiency and effectiveness in Civil Service; the extension of unified grading; obligations of managers) (Part 12) 1982 Dec 2 1983 May 24 2013 Aug 1
PREM19/3236 Civil Service (Pay and pensions: Passport Department industrial dispute) (Part 18) 1989 Feb 1 1991 Jul 31 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 343
PREM19/1685 Civil Service (Pay and pensions: pay dispute; review of early retirement arrangements) (Part 15) 1985 Apr 7 1986 May 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2601 Civil Service (Position of the Head of the Civil Service) 1987 Jun 25 1987 Jun 25 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 7
PREM19/3630 Civil Service (Prime Minister's meetings with Permanent Secretaries) 1988 Feb 1 1992 Sep 15 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 28
PREM19/1686 Civil Service (Property Services Agency (PSA) restructuring: report by Sir Geoffrey Wardale on fraud in the PSA) (Part 1) 1982 Jul 22 1986 Aug 5 2014 Dec 30

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