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 classification Pagessort descending Link to selections
PREM19/310 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; pay negotiations; contingency planning) (Part 5) 1980 Feb 15 1980 Mar 12 2010 Dec 30 Secret 226
PREM19/481 Government machinery (Advisory Council for Applied Research & Development (ACARD): reports on IT, computer-aided design & technological change; future of ACARD) (Part 2) 1980 Aug 1 1981 Dec 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 226
PREM19/109 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 4) 1979 Jul 31 1979 Aug 9 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 226
PREM19/679 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy) (Part 9) 1981 Sep 28 1982 May 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 226
PREM19/1034 France (Franco-British Council; visit of Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy in May 1982; meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Feb 17 1983 Mar 29 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 226
PREM19/15 Defence (Modernisation of Theatre Nuclear Forces)(Part 1) 1979 May 16 1979 Nov 29 2009-12-30 Secret 226
PREM19/2401 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's international commitments) (Part 1) 1983 Dec 16 1988 May 5 2016 Jul 21 7 Personal and Confidential 226
PREM19/1036 Germany (Prime Minister's visits to Germany: meetings with Chancellor Helmut Kohl) (Part 4) 1982 Oct 28 1983 Oct 26 2013 Aug 1 Secret 226
PREM19/783 Home affairs (Family Policy Group; renewing the values of society) 1982 May 26 1982 Oct 29 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 227
PREM19/2384 Parliament (MPs' pay and pensions) (Part 6) 1985 Sep 4 1987 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21 2 Confidential 227
PREM19/943 USA (Visit to UK by President Reagan, June 1982: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1982 May 5 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 8 Secret 227
PREM19/476 Government machinery (Organisation of Treasury and Civil Service Department (CSD); consideration of a 'Prime Minister's Department') (Part 4) 1981 May 20 1981 Oct 30 2011 Dec 30 1 Secret 227
PREM19/416 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 6) 1981 May 18 1981 Jun 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 227
PREM19/2298 Local Government (Correspondence from Sir John Sainsbury on planning controls: general planning inquiries; land for housing and planning policy) (Part 4) 1987 Jan 7 1988 Jan 21 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 227
PREM19/331 Poland (Internal situation; relations with UK) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 22 1980 Nov 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 227

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