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.

 

File name Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/3437 Manpower (Special employment measures: measures to tackle rising unemployment; Employment Training and special needs; youth training) (Part 25) 1990 Nov 1 1991 Sep 30 2017 Jul 20 Secret 321
PREM19/356 Security (Leak of documents on defence expenditure to Press Association) 1980 Oct 23 1980 Dec 17 2010 Dec 30 Secret 84
PREM19/703 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 5) 1981 Sep 7 1982 Jan 22 2012 Dec 28 Secret 147
PREM19/919 Security (Security at Chequers; reports on break-in (September 1966); mishandled mail (December 1972); Territorial Army exercise (June 1973); low-flying over Chequers (February 1974)) 1966 Oct 7 1982 Oct 18 2012 Dec 28 Secret 23
PREM19/2126 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure; Higginson Report on future of 'A' levels; polytechnics; City Arts College; national curriculum issues; opting out of Local Education (Part 19) 1988 Jun 1 1988 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21 Secret 343
PREM19/3273 Economic Policy (Consumer Credit Act 1974: licensing; consumer lending; credit marketing) 1979 Jul 4 1991 Sep 19 2017 Jul 20 Secret 256
PREM19/107 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 1 1979 Jul 4 2009 Dec 30 Secret 382
PREM19/455 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 7) 1980 Dec 2 1981 Mar 31 2011 Dec 30 Secret 161
PREM19/2590 Austria (Visits to the UK by Austrian Foreign Ministers: Erwin Lanc (November 1983) and Alois Mock (December 1989)) 1983 Sep 2 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30 Secret 36
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
PREM19/2377 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 15) 1986 May 2 1987 Jan 28 2016 Jul 21 Secret 198
PREM19/3101 NATO (NATO Policy) 1980 Jun 20 1990 Apr 25 2017 Jul 20 Secret 311
PREM19/423 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 8) 1981 Jan 2 1981 Jun 10 2011 Dec 30 Secret 256

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