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?sort descending File classification Pages
PREM19/3949 Social Services (Portable pensions for mobility of labour: retirement provisions) 1988 Dec 1 1992 Jun 24 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2244 Industrial Policy (Possible sale by the Laird Group of Metro-Cammell) 1985 Sep 26 1986 Apr 18 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 9
PREM19/2961 El Salvador (Internal situation: UK/El Salvador relations) (Part 1) 1981 Dec 1 1990 Jan 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1615 Regional Policy (Inner city policy: Urban Programme; illegal rate setting by Liverpool City Council; appointment of commissioners; reorganisation of schools) (Part 5) 1984 Apr 27 1985 Jan 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 334
PREM19/1276 Industrial policy (National Enterprise Board (NEB); Industry Bill; relations between the NEB and the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC); British Technology Group future role; government research and development capability) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 1 1984 Feb 24 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 236
PREM19/938 United Nations (North/South Global Negotiations) 1980 Mar 17 1982 Jan 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 116
PREM19/262 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 3 1980 Feb 14 2010 Dec 30 Secret 232
PREM19/4033 Civil Service (Property Services Agency restructuring: Wardall Enquiry) (Part 4) 1990 Aug 3 1993 Jun 23 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2729 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 14) 1989 Jan 6 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30 Secret 272
PREM19/2777 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): community care) (Part 21) 1989 May 2 1989 Jun 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1906 Prime Minister (Gift of moon dust to the people of the UK from President Nixon of the USA) 1970 Feb 10 1985 Jan 18 2015 Dec 30 Unclassified 178
PREM19/1531 Hong Kong (Metro Cammell contract to supply rolling stock for Kowloon-Canton railway) 1981 Aug 14 1985 Sep 26 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 38
PREM19/1195 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 9) 1984 Jan 16 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3 Secret 246
PREM19/858 Oman (Prime Minister's visit to Oman, April 1981: follow-up action; military assistance and training charges; aid; credit for defence equipment) 1981 Apr 24 1982 Mar 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 76
PREM19/522 Malta (Visits to UK by Dr Edward Fenech Adami, leader of Maltese opposition Nationalist Party, November 1979 and June 1981: meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 Oct 12 1981 Jun 1 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 27

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