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
PREM19/978 Defence (Future UK defence policy; the health of the NATO Alliance; review of NATO) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 5 1983 Oct 3 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 246
PREM19/3788 Home Affairs (Capital punishment: sentencing policy; Criminal Justice Bill) (Part 5) 1990 Nov 7 1992 May 19 2017 Dec 29 3 Secret 313
PREM19/1322 National health (Reforming the National Health Service (NHS); reorganisation: compensation terms) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 15 1984 Sep 27 2014 Jan 3 Secret 160
PREM19/165 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 8) 1980 Jan 29 1980 Feb 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 176
PREM19/853 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 5) 1981 Dec 1 1982 Feb 10 2012 Dec 28 Secret 259
PREM19/1196 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 10) 1984 Jun 1 1984 Jul 31 2014 Jan 3 Secret 485
PREM19/1538 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland: privatisation of UniPart; collaboration with Honda) (Part 9) 1984 Apr 1 1985 Jul 7 2014 Dec 30 Secret 219
PREM19/3394 Industrial Policy (Industrial relations legislation: strikes in essential services; Green Paper 'Industrial Relations in the 1990s') (Part 16) 1989 Sep 6 1991 Nov 25 2017 Jul 20 Secret 361
PREM19/41 Elections (Briefing for incoming PM) 1979 May 4 1979 May 7 2009 Dec 30 Secret 93
PREM19/2442 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Kenya and Nigeria, January 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Oct 28 1988 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21 27 Secret 270
PREM19/1074 Lebanon (Internal situation; Israeli/Lebanese hostilities; Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 3) 1982 Jul 12 1983 Sep 5 2013 Aug 1 Secret 423
PREM19/259 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland (BL)) Part 3 1980 Mar 11 1980 Apr 17 2010 Dec 30 Secret 245
PREM19/1638 Social Services (Reform of social security: pensions, housing benefit and supplementary benefit; child support) (Part 1) 1984 Dec 28 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 232
PREM19/136 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 21 1980 Feb 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 257
PREM19/2998 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 2a) 1990 Jan 5 1990 Feb 15 2017 Jul 20 3 Secret 299

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