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? File classification Pagessort descending Link to selections
PREM19/1708 Economic policy (Reform of taxation policy: preparation of Green Paper on personal taxation; partnership taxation) (Part 15) 1984 Jan 10 1986 Jan 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 203
PREM19/275 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; negotiations for release of hostages; sanctions) Part 5 1980 Feb 1 1980 Apr 8 2010 Dec 30 Secret 203
PREM19/641 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 30) 1982 Oct 1 1982 Oct 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 203
PREM19/394 Broadcasting (BBC External Services) 1979 May 25 1981 Oct 22 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 203
PREM19/1500 Foreign Policy (Briefing for officials for Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) 1985 Apr 4 1985 Apr 13 2014 Dec 30 1 Confidential 203
PREM19/1003 Economic policy (Top Salaries Review Body (TSRB): reports on salaries of senior civil servants, senior members of the armed services and judges; salaries of Members of Parliament) (Part 4) 1981 Nov 9 1983 Apr 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 204
PREM19/793 Housing (Housing policy; Housing Act 1980; council house sales) (Part 2) 1980 Aug 1 1981 Sep 23 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 205
PREM19/490 Industrial policy (Prime Minister's meetings with Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on economic strategy) (Part 2) 1980 Nov 7 1981 Jul 7 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 205
PREM19/290 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 28 1980 Sep 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 205
PREM19/2202 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 22) 1986 Nov 3 1987 Jan 27 2015 Dec 30 Secret 205
PREM19/1415 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 1A) 1985 Apr 30 1985 Dec 10 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 205
PREM19/944 USA (Relations between the UK and USA) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1982 Apr 13 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 205
PREM19/804 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 8) 1981 Oct 7 1982 Feb 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 205
PREM19/1011 Education (Wider parental choice; education vouchers) 1982 Nov 5 1983 Nov 18 2013 Aug 1 Secret 205
PREM19/1116 Regional policy (Review of regional policy; creation of Enterprise Zones) (Part 5) 1983 Feb 11 1983 Oct 31 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 206

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