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
PREM19/3169 Social Services (Uprating of social security benefits) (Part 5) 1989 Oct 2 1990 May 18 2017 Jul 20 Secret 287
PREM19/3769 Gibraltar (Policy towards Gibraltar) (Part 6) 1986 Dec 3 1992 Mar 16 2024 review Retained under Sec 3:4
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
PREM19/2488 Security (Correspondence with Lieutenant Colonel Robert Butler) 1983 Apr 15 1988 Mar 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1702 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 35) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1359 Prime Minister (Lord Longford's article for ‘The Universe’, drawing on interview with Prime Minister) 1982 Sep 29 1983 Feb 25 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 29
PREM19/1023 European policy (European Council meeting, Copenhagen, December 1982) (Part 12) 1982 Sep 24 1983 Feb 10 2013 Aug 1 Secret 172
PREM19/686 Defence (Intelligence gathering operations) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1982 Oct 6 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/345 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 15) 1980 Feb 16 1980 Feb 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 221
PREM19/4870 Papua New Guinea (Relations) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 21 1994 Dec 30 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2248 Industrial Policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 12) 1985 Mar 6 1987 Jan 28 2016 Jul 21 Secret 264
PREM19/2965 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Environmental Protection Bill) (Part 13) 1989 Dec 1 1990 Jan 31 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 205
PREM19/1620 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing; unionisation) (Part 3) 1984 Mar 2 1985 Apr 26 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1280 Industrial policy (Ports: review of policy, industrial action; uture of Port of London Authority (PLA)) (Part 2) 1982 May 11 1984 Dec 10 2014 Jan 3 Secret 328
PREM19/606 Zimbabwe (Internal situation; aid; relations with South Africa) 1980 Apr 17 1981 Nov 2 2011 Dec 30 Secret 258

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