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
PREM19/1821 Japan (Visits to the UK by Japanese Foreign Ministers, Masoyashi Ito and Shintaro Abe) 1981 Aug 24 1986 Oct 22 2014 Dec 30 Secret 64
PREM19/1003 Economic policy (Top Salaries Review Body (TSRB): reports on salaries of senior civil servants, senior members of the armed services and judges; salaries of Members of Parliament) (Part 4) 1981 Nov 9 1983 Apr 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 204
PREM19/3190 Trade (Freeports in the UK) 1983 Feb 25 1990 May 3 2016 Dec 30 Secret 166
PREM19/665 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; cable systems and broadcasting policy) (Part 2) 1982 Mar 2 1982 Nov 24 2012 Dec 28 Secret 110
PREM19/193 Economic policy (Top Salaries Review Body reports on salaries of senior civil servants, senior armed forces officers, judges, nationalised industries board members, Ministers and MPs) (Part 1) 1979 May 9 1980 Jun 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 114
PREM19/539 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 15 1981 Mar 4 2011 Dec 30 Secret 189
PREM19/2206 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 26) 1988 Jan 14 1988 Feb 26 2015 Dec 30 Secret 206
PREM19/1224 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 12) 1983 Dec 1 1984 Dec 20 2014 Jan 3 Secret 354
PREM19/3356 Germany (Rudolf Hess) 1980 Feb 28 1991 Jun 11 2017 Jul 20 1 Secret 100
PREM19/1098 Parliament (House of Commons procedure; review of working of Departmental Select Committees; Select Committee inquiry into positive vetting; Select Committee interest in records of security and intelligence agencies) (Part 5) 1981 Sep 7 1983 Mar 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 261
PREM19/286 Italy (Visit to UK by Emilio Colombo, Foreign Minister, May 1980) 1980 May 27 1980 May 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 22
PREM19/3064 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 17) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Mar 30 2016 Dec 30 2 Secret 429
PREM19/633 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 22) 1982 Jun 1 1982 Jun 5 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 237
PREM19/974 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: HARM/ALARM anti-radar missiles; rising cost of defence equipment; competition in defence procurement) (Part 1) 1983 Mar 29 1983 Nov 23 2013 Aug 1 Secret 291
PREM19/1318 National health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS); NHS Management Inquiry Report (Griffiths Report); priorities and policies for health and personal social services) (Part 3) 1984 Mar 10 1984 Aug 24 2014 Jan 3 Secret 237

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