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
PREM19/1140 Soviet Union (Representations from Commander Anthony Courtney, former Conservative MP, about Soviet espionage activity in UK) 1980 Jan 8 1982 Dec 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 30
PREM19/1012 Education (Policy on education expenditure; raising standards in schools) (Part 3) 1982 Jul 5 1983 Dec 19 2013 Aug 1 Secret 348
PREM19/1705 Economic policy (Economic strategy: pay and prices; economic statistics) (Part 26) 1984 Mar 15 1985 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 Secret 385
PREM19/176 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 3) 1979 Mar 1 1980 May 12 2010 Dec 30 Secret 198
PREM19/1107 Prime Minister (Briefing for incoming Prime Minister from Cabinet Office, Prime Minister's Office and Civil Service Department, May 1979; post-election briefing, June 1983) 1979 Apr 6 1983 Jun 8 2013 Aug 1 Secret 162
PREM19/52 European policy (European Council, Dublin Nov 1979) (Part 2) 1979 Oct 19 1979 Dec 7 2009 Dec 30 Secret 300
PREM19/2379 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 17) 1987 Nov 9 1988 Sep 23 2016 Jul 21 Secret 265
PREM19/400 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; Civil Service pay dispute; industrial action) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 2 1981 Apr 15 2011 Dec 30 Secret 211
PREM19/616 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 5) 1982 Apr 8 1982 Apr 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 216
PREM19/1801 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland) (Part 10) 1985 Sep 3 1986 Mar 7 2014 Dec 30 Secret 294
PREM19/1544 Iraq (Visits to UK by Iraqi Deputy Prime Ministers, Taha Ramadhan and Tariq Aziz (also Foreign Minister): meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Nov 23 1985 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30 1 Secret 362
PREM19/147 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 10 1980 Apr 10 2010 Dec 30 Secret 162
PREM19/494 Industrial policy (National Union of Mineworkers (NUM): structure and procedures, and leading personalities; likely tactics in pay negotiations) 1980 Mar 17 1981 Oct 27 2011 Dec 30 Secret 40
PREM19/21 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 4) 1979 Sep 6 1979 Sep 28 2009 Dec 30 Secret 106
PREM19/1418 Agriculture (Agricultural expenditure) (Part 1) 1983 Sep 23 1985 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 307

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