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 descending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/154 Civil Service (Civil Service manpower: action to reduce size of Civil Service and staff costs; Civil Service pay; early retirement) (Part 4) 1980 Mar 5 1980 Jul 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 273
PREM19/330 Parliament (Top Salaries Review Body report on Parliamentary pay) (Part 3) 1980 Jul 10 1980 Nov 28 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 225
PREM19/208 Energy (Coking coal: National Coal Board grant; British Steel Corporation imports) 1979 Jul 23 1980 Sep 8 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 52
PREM19/301 National Health (Overspending by Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Area Health Authority (AHA); removal of powers by Social Services Secretary; AHA resumption of powers following Court ruling) 1979 Jul 31 1980 Mar 3 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 30
PREM19/176 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 3) 1979 Mar 1 1980 May 12 2010 Dec 30 Secret 198
PREM19/269 Industrial policy (Micro-electronics industry; support for Inmos Ltd (INMOS)) (Part 1) 1979 May 24 1980 Apr 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 137
PREM19/368 Social Services (Action on child abuse; death of Lucy Gates) (Part 3) 1980 Nov 5 1980 Dec 31 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 16
PREM19/241 Government Machinery (Responsibility for science matters; future of Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development (ACARD)) (Part 1) 1979 May 16 1980 Feb 28 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 147
PREM19/155 Commonwealth (Heads of Government Meeting in Lusaka, August 1979) (Part 2) 1979 Aug 1 1980 Feb 6 2010 Dec 30 Secret 131
PREM19/331 Poland (Internal situation; relations with UK) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 22 1980 Nov 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 227
PREM19/302 Nationalised Industries (Coal mines) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 27 1980 Mar 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 145
PREM19/177 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 7 1980 May 2 2010 Dec 30 Secret 214
PREM19/270 Industrial policy (Resource Centre in Wales: Welsh Office contribution to feasibility study by Wales Trades Union Congress) (Part 1) 1980 Nov 19 1980 Nov 25 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 9
PREM19/369 Social Services (Prime Minister’s meeting with representatives of the Community Service Volunteers to discuss youth unemployment) 1980 Jul 2 1980 Nov 11 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 78
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

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