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 classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/843 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 9) 1981 Dec 11 1982 Apr 21 2012 Dec 28 Secret 344
PREM19/309 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; contingency planning) (Part 4) 1980 Jan 22 1980 Feb 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 207
PREM19/844 Ministers (Ministerial travel overseas: general policy) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 191
PREM19/1187 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 10) 1983 May 4 1984 Apr 12 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 121
PREM19/530 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 5) 1980 Sep 1 1981 Apr 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 370
PREM19/721 Economic policy (Liaison Committee on presentation of government policies; guidance to Ministers and MPs) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 1 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 240
PREM19/218 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 6) 1980 Jul 18 1980 Nov 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 207
PREM19/595 Security (Leak to 'The Times' of Cabinet proceedings on public expenditure) 1981 Oct 21 1981 Oct 28 2011 Dec 30 Secret 18
PREM19/408 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy; Sir Derek Rayner's recommendations for reforms; Civil Service numbers and costs; performance related pay) (Part 7) 1980 Nov 18 1981 Mar 6 2011 Dec 30 Secret 224
PREM19/277 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; sanctions) (Part 7) 1980 May 1 1980 May 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 257
PREM19/2290 Kenya (Prime Minister's visit to Kenya, January 1988) (Part 1) 1987 Nov 16 1988 Apr 20 2016 Jul 21 2 Secret 282
PREM19/815 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 11) 1982 Feb 4 1982 Jun 30 2012 Dec 28 7 Secret 133
PREM19/689 Defence (Review of home defence) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 6 1982 Mar 3 2012 Dec 28 Secret 99
PREM19/186 Economic policy (Pay comparability and the future of the Standing Commission (Clegg Commission); Government response) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1979 Sep 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 193
PREM19/2238 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 12) 1988 May 3 1988 Jul 29 2016 Jul 21 Secret 404

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