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 releasesort ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1028 European policy (European Council meeting, Brussels, March 1983: briefing papers) (Part 15A) 1983 Mar 9 1983 Mar 18 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 325
PREM19/1029 European policy (European Council meeting, Stuttgart, June 1983) (Part 16 (incorporating Part 14)) 1982 Nov 1 1983 Jun 23 2013 Aug 1 3 Secret 266
PREM19/998 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 10) 1982 Feb 1 1983 Oct 10 2013 Aug 1 Secret 272
PREM19/1161 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment) (Part 9) 1983 Feb 1 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 400
PREM19/966 Civil service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs) (Part 2) 1981 Aug 19 1983 Sep 19 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 373
PREM19/1061 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 9) 1982 Mar 24 1983 Jan 20 2013 Aug 1 Secret 245
PREM19/1096 Overseas aid (Development policy; aid framework for 1981-1982 to 1983-1984; UK contribution to International Development Association) (Part 3) 1982 Apr 2 1983 Dec 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 304
PREM19/1030 European policy (European Council meeting, Stuttgart, June 1983: briefing papers) (Part 16A) 1983 Jun 7 1983 Jun 16 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 415
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
PREM19/1130 Security (Leak from Property Services Agency (PSA); activities of Trade Union representatives in the PSA) 1982 Apr 28 1983 Mar 9 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 23
PREM19/1062 Industrial policy (Prime Minister's meetings with Confederation of British Industry (CBI)) (Part 3) 1981 Aug 4 1983 Oct 20 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 146
PREM19/1097 Parliament (Legislative programme, 1983-1984) (Part 10) 1982 Nov 9 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 151
PREM19/1031 European policy (Enlargement of European Community (EC): accession of Greece; pre-accession aid to Portugal; Spanish accession; EC attitude to Turkey) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1983 Mar 10 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 168
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
PREM19/1063 Industrial policy (Future of Times newspapers: sale by Thomson Organisation; purchase by Rupert Murdoch's News International) 1979 Oct 16 1983 Jul 18 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 111

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