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 classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/738 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 14) 1982 Feb 3 1982 Mar 18 2012 Dec 28 Secret 220
PREM19/17 Defence (Accidental US nuclear alert) 1979 Nov 10 1979 Nov 16 2009 Dec 30 Secret 9
PREM19/362 Security (Leak in Guardian and Time Out of Ministerial discussion on civil nuclear power programme) 1979 Dec 6 1980 Mar 24 2010 Dec 30 Secret 23
PREM19/1740 Energy (Activities and role of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (AEA)) 1984 Mar 2 1986 Mar 11 2014 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/922 Social services (Employers' statutory sick pay scheme) 1979 Dec 6 1981 Nov 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 85
PREM19/1263 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 12) 1984 Feb 1 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 16 Secret 458
PREM19/237 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister’s bilateral meetings in Belgrade whilst attending Tito’s funeral) 1980 May 5 1980 May 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 92
PREM19/110 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 5) 1979 Aug 9 1979 Aug 30 2009 Dec 30 Secret 355
PREM19/674 Civil service (Pay and pensions) (Part 10) 1982 Feb 8 1982 Feb 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 274
PREM19/1015 Energy (Government evidence to inquiry on coal mining in Vale of Belvoir) 1979 Jul 16 1983 Mar 4 2013 Aug 1 Secret 133
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
PREM19/1709 Economic policy (Reform of personal taxation: draft Green Paper by Chancellor of the Exchequer; 'historic papers' on Sir Geoffrey Howe's proposals in 1982-1983 for family taxation reform) 1985 Sep 27 1985 Dec 3 2014 Dec 30 Secret 236
PREM19/2380 Parliament (Parliamentary Secretary's minutes on forthcoming Parliamentary affairs) (Part 2) 1985 Jul 3 1987 Oct 28 2016 Jul 21 Secret 191
PREM19/206 Energy (Future of British National Oil Corporation (BNOC); proposed sale of British Petroleum (BP) assets; Petroleum and Submarine Pipeline Bill) (Part 3) 1979 Dec 27 1980 Jun 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 198
PREM19/552 Netherlands (Prime Minister's visit to The Hague, February 1981; meeting with Prime Minister , Dries van Agt) 1980 Dec 23 1981 Feb 13 2011 Dec 30 Secret 92

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