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
PREM19/2336 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; Community Care Review) (Part 10) 1988 Feb 3 1988 Feb 29 2016 Jul 21 Secret 236
PREM19/732 Education (Secondary school education; legislation to remove the compulsion for comprehensive education; the Education Bill; local authority arrangements for school curriculum) (Part 1) 1979 May 14 1981 Oct 14 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 236
PREM19/1709 Economic policy (Reform of personal taxation: draft Green Paper by Chancellor of the Exchequer; 'historic papers' on Sir Geoffrey Howe's proposals in 1982-1983 for family taxation reform) 1985 Sep 27 1985 Dec 3 2014 Dec 30 Secret 236
PREM19/3 China (Premier Hua visit to UK, Oct 1979) (Part 1) 1979 May 18 1979 Nov 29 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 236
PREM19/633 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 22) 1982 Jun 1 1982 Jun 5 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 237
PREM19/2357 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 12) 1987 Feb 12 1987 Sep 28 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 237
PREM19/1045 Government machinery (Future of Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS); CPRS work programme for 1982; Prime Minister's dissatisfaction with CPRS; abolition of CPRS) 1981 Dec 24 1983 Jul 25 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 238
PREM19/822 Japan (Commercial relations with Japan; proposed Nissan car plant in the UK) (Part 2) 1981 Dec 2 1982 Nov 17 2012 Dec 28 Secret 238
PREM19/1804 Industrial policy (Moratorium on applications for support and innovation: research and development) (Part 1) 1984 Nov 8 1986 Jan 20 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 238
PREM19/1568 Manpower (Employment policy: measures to counter unemployment; education and training for 14 to 18 year olds; Youth Training Scheme (YTS)) (Part 11) 1984 Nov 1 1985 Feb 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 238
PREM19/1177 Civil service (Pay and pensions; report of Megaw Committee on pay and conditions; pay negotiations) (Part 13) 1982 Nov 19 1984 Jan 17 2014 Jan 3 Secret 239
PREM19/1816 Israel (Prime Minister's visit to Israel, May 1986) 1986 Mar 6 1986 Jun 16 2014 Dec 30 Secret DEDIP 239
PREM19/1802 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland) (Part 11) 1986 May 1 1986 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 Secret 239
PREM19/335 Prime Minister (Visits to government departments and regional visits) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 27 1980 Jan 11 2010 Dec 30 Secret 240
PREM19/790 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 8 1982 Oct 5 2012 Dec 28 Secret 240

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