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
PREM19/1369 Science and technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base; the science budget; review of high energy particle physics (HEPP); annual review of government funded research and development 1984) (Part 1) 1983 Sep 15 1984 Jul 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 396
PREM19/2089 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - Venice, June 1987) (Part 22) 1986 Sep 18 1987 May 29 2016 Jul 21 Secret 276
PREM19/215 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 5 1980 Mar 10 2010 Dec 30 Secret 116
PREM19/561 Poland (Internal situation; economic assistance to Poland; state of emergency - martial law, December 1981) (Part 4) 1981 Aug 12 1981 Dec 18 2011 Dec 30 Secret 279
PREM19/1245a Germany (Visits to UK by Chancellor Helmut Kohl; Anglo-German Summit) (Part 8A) 1983 Oct 11 1984 Aug 29 2014 Jan 3 Secret 194
PREM19/3317 European Policy (European Council meeting, Maastricht, December 1991) (Part 39) 1990 Jan 18 1991 Nov 29 2017 Jul 20 3 Secret 291
PREM19/1120 Royal family (Queen Mother's visits to Northern Ireland, April 1982 and June 1983) 1982 Apr 20 1983 Jun 17 2013 Aug 1 Secret 8
PREM19/1462 Economic policy (Pay Review Body reports on pay of civil servants, armed forces and National Health Service (NHS); Top Salaries Review Body (TSRB) pension awards; pay of Permanent and Deputy Secretaries) (Part 6) 1984 Mar 6 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 281
PREM19/1811 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach) (Part 14) 1986 Feb 17 1986 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 255
PREM19/308 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; contingency planning) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 8 1980 Jan 22 2010 Dec 30 Secret 319
PREM19/2355 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 15) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Dec 31 2016 Jul 21 Secret 288
PREM19/996 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 9) 1982 Oct 19 1983 Jan 31 2013 Aug 1 Secret 280
PREM19/183 Economic policy (Prime Minister’s meetings with Gordon Pepper) (Part 1) 1979 May 16 1980 Mar 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 202
PREM19/529 Middle East (Arms sales and military assistance to Middle Eastern countries) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 6 1981 Mar 31 2011 Dec 30 2 Secret 209
PREM19/871 Poland (Internal situation; state of emergency - martial law) (Part 5) 1981 Dec 19 1982 Jan 5 2012 Dec 28 Secret 305

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