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? File classification Pagessort descending
PREM19/433 Economic policy (Inquiry into Value of Pensions (chairman: Sir Bernard Scott); index linked public sector pensions) (Part 2) 1980 Nov 28 1981 Jun 4 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 246
PREM19/4066 Disasters (Damage caused by storms and severe weather conditions: storm damage after the hurricane on 16 October 1987; damage after the storms of January and February 1990) (Part 1) 1987 Oct 16 1993 Jul 5 2018 Jul 24 Secret 246
PREM19/978 Defence (Future UK defence policy; the health of the NATO Alliance; review of NATO) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 5 1983 Oct 3 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 246
PREM19/3411 Jamaica (Visits by Jamaican Prime Ministers) (Part 1) 1982 May 1 1991 Jun 30 2017 Jul 20 Secret 246
PREM19/1094 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy; withstanding a strike in the gas industry) (Part 8) 1983 Apr 5 1983 Dec 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 246
PREM19/682 Commonwealth (Heads of Government meeting in Melbourne, September-October 1981: records of meetings; Melbourne Declaration; communique) (Part 4) 1981 Sep 15 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 247
PREM19/3982 USA (Visits to the UK by Vice Presidents of the USA, George H.W. Bush and Dan Quayle) (Part 2) 1987 Aug 11 1992 Feb 14 2017 Dec 29 3 Confidential 247
PREM19/1202 Economic policy (Review of policy on film finance; taxation of film industry; films policy review) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 19 1984 Dec 13 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 247
PREM19/1492 European Policy (European Council meeting, Milan, June 1985) (Part 22) 1985 Jun 27 1985 Dec 6 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 247
PREM19/484 Home affairs (Civil disorder: riots in Brixton, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester & London; Prime Minister's meetings with community leaders; anti-riot equipment for the police; Urban Programme; implications for local authority spending) 1980 Apr 2 1981 Oct 29 2011 Dec 30 Secret 247
PREM19/757 Foreign policy (Prime Minister's visit to Saudi Arabia & the Gulf States, April 1981) (Part 2) 1981 Apr 13 1982 Nov 19 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 247
PREM19/2164 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 34) 1986 Dec 1 1987 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 247
PREM19/1114 Regional policy (Urban Development Corporations; regeneration of Liverpool and London Docklands; Medway Towns; inner city policy and problems) (Part 3) 1981 Nov 19 1983 Aug 9 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 248
PREM19/989 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 7) 1983 Jan 31 1983 Sep 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 248
PREM19/2430 Prime Minister (Visits to government departments) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 15 1982 Nov 25 2016 Jul 21 2 Confidential 248

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