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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/314 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding; British Shipbuilders (BS) strategy and financing; BS pay claim; privatisation) (Part 2) 1979 Dec 5 1980 Nov 12 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 193
PREM19/2695 Germany (Anglo-German relations) (Part 4) 1986 Oct 3 1989 Aug 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3540 Social Services ​​​​​​​(Assistance with fuel: severe winter payments)​​​​​​​ (Part 2) 1986 Mar 1 1991 Jun 14 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1743 Environmental Affairs (The refurbishment of Trafalgar Square) 1986 Jun 24 1986 Jun 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2557 Transport (Policy on roads: White Paper; review of the roads programme) (Part 3) 1986 Dec 12 1988 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 244
PREM19/1400 Transport (British Rail: review of main line electrification; Hastings-Tonbridge rail service) 1980 Nov 13 1984 Jul 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2031 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; subscription television; independent television producers; Broadcasting White Paper) (Part 6) 1988 Jan 4 1988 Sep 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2700 Government Buildings (Purchase of government accommodation in the Whitehall area) 1983 Jul 23 1989 Sep 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/727 Economic policy (Taxation of widows and single women aged 60-64: exchanges with Jeff Rooker MP) 1981 Mar 26 1981 Jun 22 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 35
PREM19/574 Prime Minister (Meeting with Dale Campbell-Savours MP regarding closure of Distington Foundry) 1981 Feb 9 1981 Apr 6 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 198
PREM19/234 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 2) 1980 Mar 3 1980 May 7 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 134
PREM19/1661 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, July 1985) 1985 Jul 8 1985 Jul 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 278
PREM19/1320 National health (Seminar on health and social security, September 1983; Social Security Policy Reviews) (Part 1) 1983 Jul 26 1984 Jun 22 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/982 Economic policy (Abolition of Economic Planning Councils) 1979 Jul 17 1979 Jul 25 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 45
PREM19/3650 Defence (Military uses of laser technology in space: United States Strategic Defence Initiative; Global Protection Against Limited Strikes (GPALS))​​​​​​​ (Part 6) 1989 Jun 14 1992 Sep 23 2017 Dec 29

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