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
PREM19/500 Ireland (Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland) (Part 2) 1981 Feb 5 1981 Jul 21 2011 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/169 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 12) 1980 Nov 11 1980 Nov 24 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/171 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 4) 1979 Oct 12 1980 Jan 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/137 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 4) 1980 Feb 28 1980 Apr 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/58 Germany (Chancellor's visits to UK, Schmidt May 1979) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 May 25 2009 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/261 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 2) 1979 Oct 1 1980 Feb 1 2010 Dec 30 Secret 221
PREM19/1009 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Williamsburg) (Part 13) 1983 May 27 1983 Oct 2 2013 Aug 1 Secret 221
PREM19/977 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 9) 1982 Jul 6 1983 Apr 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 221
PREM19/2255 Industrial Policy (Future of the Rover Group) (Part 13) 1987 Jan 5 1987 Sep 29 2016 Jul 21 Secret Named Distribution Only 221
PREM19/697 Economic policy (International banking system) (Part 1) 1982 Aug 2 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 221
PREM19/345 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 15) 1980 Feb 16 1980 Feb 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 221
PREM19/2353 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: British Gas privatisation; privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 13) 1986 Oct 2 1987 Oct 2 2016 Jul 21 Secret 222
PREM19/2122 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: bogus degrees; financial delegation; charges for school activities; grant maintained schools; national curriculum; open enrolment; education in Scotland and Wales) (Part 15) 1987 Aug 3 1987 Oct 30 2016 Jul 21 Confidential and Personal 222
PREM19/150 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 4) 1980 May 8 1980 Jul 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 222
PREM19/92 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 1) 1979 May 17 1979 Sep 20 2009 Dec 30 1 Secret 223

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