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
PREM19/1693 Defence (Arms control) (Part 7) 1985 Aug 1 1986 Feb 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 390
PREM19/2362 Nationalised Industries (Steel Industry: British Steel Corporation (BSC) privatisation) (Part 15) 1987 Oct 1 1988 Nov 23 2016 Jul 21 Secret 240
PREM19/404 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; Civil Service pay dispute; industrial action; establishment of independent inquiry) (Part 7) 1981 Jul 10 1981 Nov 5 2011 Dec 30 Secret 347
PREM19/878 Prime Minister (Communications with Jimmy Savile concerning tax deductions for charitable donations following his fund raising for Stoke Mandeville hospital) 1980 Feb 5 1982 Jan 8 2012 Dec 28 4 Secret 22
PREM19/1563 Local Government (Water industry: structural change; financing arrangements; Water Bill) (Part 2) 1982 Nov 15 1985 Nov 26 2014 Dec 30 Secret 175
PREM19/273 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; sanctions) (Part 3) 1979 Dec 23 1980 Jan 8 2010 Dec 30 Secret 265
PREM19/1095 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; plant closures; future of Ian MacGregor, chairman of British Steel Corporation (BSC)) (Part 12) 1982 Dec 1 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 368
PREM19/1437 Defence (Proposal by Julian Amery MP to revive the Special Operations Executive (SOE): history of SOE in the Far East, Greece and Scandinavia) 1980 Apr 3 1985 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 Secret 48
PREM19/1786 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: prison manpower; Scrutiny of the Prison Service) (Part 2) 1983 Mar 9 1986 May 22 2014 Dec 30 Secret 291
PREM19/150 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 4) 1980 May 8 1980 Jul 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 222
PREM19/2322 Mauritius (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth, February 1988: meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1988 Feb 5 1988 Sep 5 2016 Jul 21 2 Secret 40
PREM19/971 Cyprus (Internal situation; UK/Cypriot relations) (Part 1) 1980 Feb 29 1983 Nov 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 355
PREM19/24 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 14 2009 Dec 30 Secret 111
PREM19/1315 Middle East (Arms sales and military assistance to Middle Eastern countries) (Part 3) 1982 Oct 13 1984 Oct 22 2014 Sep 29 Secret 375
PREM19/371 South Africa (Internal situation) Part 1 1979 Jun 18 1980 Aug 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 235

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