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 Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pagessort descending
PREM19/242 Government Machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the scrutiny programme) (Part 4) 1979 Nov 30 1980 Feb 12 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 228
PREM19/472 Germany (Visit to UK by Chancellor Schmidt, March 1980: Anglo-German Summit) (Part 2) 1979 Aug 13 1981 Apr 17 2012 Feb 22 Secret 229
PREM19/180 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 6) 1980 Oct 31 1980 Nov 26 2010 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/956 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (chaired by Lord Franks): general correspondence) (Part 4) 1983 Jan 19 1983 May 6 2013 Aug 1 Secret 229
PREM19/185 Economic policy (Inflation proofed pensions in the public sector; independent enquiry) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 10 1980 Jun 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/1408 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald; Anglo-Irish Summits) (Part 7) 1983 Nov 1 1984 Nov 23 2014 Jan 3 Secret 229
PREM19/801 India (Visit to UK by Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, March 1982: meeting with Prime Minister; Festival of India) (Part 2) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Aug 5 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 229
PREM19/1007 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Williamsburg) (Part 11) 1982 Sep 21 1983 Apr 28 2013 Aug 1 Secret 229
PREM19/3285 Economic Policy (Market reports) 1988 Jun 30 1991 Jul 2 2017 Jul 20 Secret 229
PREM19/707 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 11) 1981 Dec 3 1982 Jan 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 229
PREM19/2017 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 42) 1987 Sep 7 1988 Dec 29 2016 Dec 30 8 Secret UK Eyes A 229
PREM19/515 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 5) 1981 Jun 4 1981 Sep 8 2011 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/1740 Energy (Activities and role of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (AEA)) 1984 Mar 2 1986 Mar 11 2014 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/3766 Germany (Visits to the UK by Chancellor Kohl) (Part 11A) 1990 Apr 2 1992 Nov 6 2017 Dec 29 1 Top Secret 229
PREM19/422 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 17) 1981 Nov 13 1981 Dec 8 2011 Dec 30 Secret 229

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