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
PREM19/2957 Education (General policy on education) (Part 26) 1990 Jun 1 1990 Nov 16 2016 Dec 30 Secret 320
PREM19/144 Civil Service (Pay and Pensions: reports by Government Actuary’s Department and Civil Service Pay Research Unit) 1979 May 17 1980 May 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 144
PREM19/509 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach (Garret Fitzgerald); Anglo-Irish Summit, November 1981) (Part 5) 1981 Oct 22 1981 Nov 6 2011 Dec 30 Secret 224
PREM19/1071 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 2) 1982 Feb 26 1983 Aug 23 2013 Aug 1 Secret 183
PREM19/1413 Aerospace (Space policy: formation of British National Space Centre (BNSC)) (Part 1) 1980 Jun 20 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 265
PREM19/944 USA (Relations between the UK and USA) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1982 Apr 13 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 205
PREM19/1634 Security (Security Commission: review of security procedures; appointments; cases referred; 'Three Advisers' on appeals against positive vetting clearance refusals - terms of reference and procedures) 1981 Apr 1 1985 Sep 5 2014 Dec 30 Secret 253
PREM19/239 France (Prime Minister’s visit to France, September 1980: Franco-British Conference at Bordeaux) 1979 Oct 9 1980 Oct 6 2010 Dec 30 Secret 321
PREM19/1504 Foreign Policy (Strategy on foreign policy and defence issues: Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) resources) (Part 2) 1984 Jan 9 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 281
PREM19/822 Japan (Commercial relations with Japan; proposed Nissan car plant in the UK) (Part 2) 1981 Dec 2 1982 Nov 17 2012 Dec 28 Secret 238
PREM19/112 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 7) 1979 Sep 11 1979 Oct 10 2009 Dec 30 Secret 293
PREM19/3465 Nationalised Industries ​​​​​​​(Policy towards the nationalised industries: financial control)(Part 11) 1986 Jun 2 1991 Feb 8 2017 Jul 20 Secret 404
PREM19/696 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 9) 1981 Sep 4 1982 Feb 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 279
PREM19/1039 Government machinery (Departments' programmes for next five years; preparation of 'forward look' reports) 1982 Sep 13 1983 Mar 17 2013 Aug 1 Secret 73
PREM19/207 Energy (Energy conservation and home insulation schemes: oil demand restraint) (Part 1) 1979 May 31 1980 Apr 8 2010 Dec 30 Secret 262

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