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 Endssort ascending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/330 Parliament (Top Salaries Review Body report on Parliamentary pay) (Part 3) 1980 Jul 10 1980 Nov 28 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 225
PREM19/756 Foreign policy (Relations with Allies) 1980 Jul 9 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 67
PREM19/2441 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Invitations, declined, from organisations in Israel) 1980 Jul 8 1987 Mar 25 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 9
PREM19/431 Economic policy (Policy towards small firms) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 8 1981 Apr 7 2011 Dec 30 Secret 233
PREM19/1982 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy; Prime Minister's 'Better Made in Britain' seminar, 25 February 1986) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 8 1986 Jan 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/287 Legal Procedure (Proposed amendment to Act of Settlement 1701) 1980 Jul 8 1980 Oct 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2564 United Nations (World Conference of the United Nations Decade for Women, Copenhagen, July 1980: ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)) 1980 Jul 8 1987 Jul 28 2016 Nov 7 Confidential 147
PREM19/360 Security (Alleged connection between Czech Intelligence Service and John Stonehouse) 1980 Jul 7 1980 Oct 6 2010 Dec 30 Secret 11
PREM19/250 Government Machinery (Future of Civil Service Department; integration with the Treasury; Select Committee consideration) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 7 1980 Nov 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 549
PREM19/527 Manpower (Housing policy and labour mobility: National Mobility Scheme) 1980 Jul 7 1981 Jul 23 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 56
PREM19/562 Posts and telecommunications (Post Office: postal and telecommunications monopoly (possible reference to Monopolies and Mergers Commission); Post Office pay, pricing and finances; British Telecommunications Bill) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 7 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 Secret 158
PREM19/453 Energy (Future of British National Oil Corporation (BNOC); Petroleum and Continental Shelf Bill; Clyde oil field development) (Part 4) 1980 Jul 4 1981 Dec 22 2011 Dec 30 Secret 214
PREM19/432 Economic policy (Standing Commission on Pay Comparability; abolition of the Commission; future of Pay Review Bodies) (Part 3) 1980 Jul 4 1981 Aug 5 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 117
PREM19/576 Regional policy (Creation of Enterprise Zones; possible measures to assist Merseyside; Central Policy Review Staff report) (Part 3) 1980 Jul 4 1981 Jun 29 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 309
PREM19/392 Australia (Transfer of uranium enrichment technology to Australia) 1980 Jul 3 1981 Apr 29 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 27

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