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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2306 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 7) 1987 Jul 1 1987 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2307 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 8) 1987 Aug 3 1987 Nov 12 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2308 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 9) 1987 Nov 13 1988 Mar 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/829 Local government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Green Paper on alternatives to domestic rates) (Part 1) 1979 May 25 1982 Jun 28 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 280
PREM19/1083 Local government (Industrial action in water industry; contingency planning) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 13 1983 Feb 8 2013 Aug 1 Secret 240
PREM19/1084 Local government (Industrial action in water industry; contingency planning; settlement following Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) inquiry; threat of industrial action in fire service over pensions) (Part 3) 1983 Feb 9 1983 Apr 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 228
PREM19/292 Local Government (Ministerial responsibility for the Welsh rate support grant; administration of unitary grant in Wales) 1979 May 17 1980 Sep 22 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 16
PREM19/518 Local government (Pay of local authority manual workers; Fire Service dispute; industrial action in the water industry) (Part 1) 1980 Oct 23 1981 Nov 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 171
PREM19/828 Local government (Pay of staff employed by local authorities) 1979 Jul 4 1982 Jan 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 29
PREM19/1564 Local Government (Planning systems, policy and practice: superstores and the planning system; Sir John Sainsbury's correspondence and meetings with Prime Minister on planning controls; public inquiries) (Part 1) 1983 Jul 14 1985 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 286
PREM19/519 Local government (Possibility of an Accounts Commission for Local Government) 1979 Oct 31 1981 Jun 6 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 23
PREM19/90 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1979 Sep 18 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 228
PREM19/834 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 12) 1982 Jun 11 1982 Jul 15 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 131
PREM19/835 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 13) 1982 Jul 16 1982 Oct 15 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 152
PREM19/836 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 14) 1982 Oct 18 1982 Dec 31 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 217

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