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 classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/3307 Ethiopia (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 1) 1982 Dec 1 1991 Oct 31 2017 Jul 20 8 Secret 245
PREM19/280 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland; Northern Ireland Conference, Belfast) (Part 6) 1980 Mar 12 1980 May 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 139
PREM19/1690 Defence (Public opinion and public debate on nuclear weapons issues) 1982 Oct 18 1986 May 12 2014 Dec 30 2 Secret 241
PREM19/2358 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 13) 1987 Oct 5 1988 Mar 31 2016 Nov 7 Secret 302
PREM19/3082 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 29) 1990 Sep 14 1990 Sep 29 2017 Jul 20 16 Secret 362
PREM19/3368 Government Machinery (Presentation of government policies) (Part 2) 1986 Aug 1 1991 May 31 2017 Jul 20 3 Secret 328
PREM19/749 European policy (European Council meeting in Brussels, March 1982) (Part 10) 1982 Feb 22 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 314
PREM19/1092 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 7) 1982 Sep 9 1983 May 10 2013 Aug 1 Secret 330
PREM19/430 Economic policy (Inland Revenue computer project: computerisation of PAYE; future of International Computers Limited (ICL)) 1979 Dec 4 1981 Mar 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 241
PREM19/1783 Home Affairs (Civil disorder: the Handsworth and Tottenham riots) (Part 3) 1985 Oct 4 1986 Mar 20 2014 Dec 30 3 Secret 98
PREM19/545 Nationalised industries (Pay of Chairmen and Board members) (Part 1) 1980 May 20 1981 Dec 3 2011 Dec 30 Secret 223
PREM19/2320 Manpower (Special employment measures: White Paper 'Employment for the 1990s') (Part 20) 1988 Nov 1 1988 Dec 29 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 281
PREM19/968 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; Financial Management Initiative - draft White Paper; policy on Civil Service numbers; personnel work in Civil Service; the extension of unified grading) (Part 13) 1983 May 26 1983 Sep 20 2013 Aug 1 Secret 245
PREM19/3207 USA (Prime Minister's visits to the USA) (Part 9) 1990 Feb 5 1990 Aug 8 2017 Jul 20 7 Secret 115
PREM19/843 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 9) 1981 Dec 11 1982 Apr 21 2012 Dec 28 Secret 344

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