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
PREM19/743 European policy (European Monetary System (EMS)) (Part 1) 1979 May 7 1982 Feb 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 252
PREM19/408 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy; Sir Derek Rayner's recommendations for reforms; Civil Service numbers and costs; performance related pay) (Part 7) 1980 Nov 18 1981 Mar 6 2011 Dec 30 Secret 224
PREM19/4353 Portugal (UK/Portugal relations) (Part 2) 1986 Nov 14 1993 Dec 16 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3805 Industrial Policy (Future of Rover Group) (Part 17) 1990 Apr 1 1992 Mar 11 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2329 Ministers (Ministers' plans for holidays and official visits overseas during the Parliamentary recess) 1980 May 7 1988 Jun 6 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 44
PREM19/3071 Manpower (Special employment measures: training policy; pilot schemes of training credits for young people) (Part 24) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 264
PREM19/2369 Nigeria (Prime Minister's visit to Nigeria, January 1987) 1987 Dec 10 1988 Apr 20 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1679 Cabinet (Cabinet Committee structure and membership) (Part 2) 1982 Oct 6 1986 Jan 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1336 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 11) 1983 Jul 1 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 233
PREM19/998 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 10) 1982 Feb 1 1983 Oct 10 2013 Aug 1 Secret 272
PREM19/663 Broadcasting (BBC TV programme about handling of information by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and media during the Falklands crisis; Prime Minister’s directive that no Ministers or officials should take part) 1982 Aug 6 1982 Aug 9 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 4
PREM19/322 Parliament (House of Commons procedure; reorganization of Select Committees; Departmental Select Committees) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1980 Jan 28 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 189
PREM19/4587 Cars (Use of official cars) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1994 Dec 23 2018 Dec 28 Confidential 195
PREM19/3988 Yugoslavia (Visit to the UK by the President (Speaker) of the Yugoslav Federal Assembly (1982); visit of Milan Panic, Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, July 1992) 1981 Nov 1 1992 Jul 29 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 25
PREM19/2220 Home Affairs (Demonstrations outside Embassies) 1987 Oct 16 1988 Feb 8 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 27

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