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 releasesort ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/1113 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's visit to Falklands, Jan 1983) (Part 2) 1983 Jan 10 1983 Mar 29 2013 Aug 1 5 Secret 153
PREM19/989 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 7) 1983 Jan 31 1983 Sep 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 248
PREM19/958 Arts and amenities (Policy towards the arts; private sponsorship; financial scrutiny) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 26 1983 Nov 23 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 288
PREM19/1053 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 4) 1982 Nov 8 1983 Feb 16 2013 Aug 1 16 Top Secret 453
PREM19/1147 Transport (Railway policy) Part 7 1983 May 4 1983 Oct 26 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 110
PREM19/1019 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 11) 1983 Feb 9 1983 Nov 30 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 265
PREM19/1114 Regional policy (Urban Development Corporations; regeneration of Liverpool and London Docklands; Medway Towns; inner city policy and problems) (Part 3) 1981 Nov 19 1983 Aug 9 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 248
PREM19/990 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 8) 1983 Oct 3 1983 Dec 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 153
PREM19/959 Belize (Future of Belize) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 1 1982 May 4 2013 Aug 1 Secret 252
PREM19/1054 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 5) 1983 Feb 17 1983 Apr 19 2013 Aug 1 11 Top Secret 317
PREM19/1148 United Nations (Second Special Session on Disarmament; Prime Minister's visit to New York and Washington, June 1982) (Part 1) 1982 Feb 16 1983 Oct 19 2013 Aug 1 Secret 282
PREM19/1115 Regional policy (Review of regional policy, creation of Enterprise Zones) (Part 4) 1981 Jun 30 1983 Jan 27 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 215
PREM19/991 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 21) 1983 Jan 21 1983 Feb 7 2013 Aug 1 Secret 350
PREM19/1084 Local government (Industrial action in water industry; contingency planning; settlement following Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) inquiry; threat of industrial action in fire service over pensions) (Part 3) 1983 Feb 9 1983 Apr 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 228
PREM19/960 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; development of cable systems and services; broadcasting policy) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 25 1983 May 5 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 297

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