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
PREM19/439 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 5) 1981 Feb 18 1981 Jul 10 2011 Dec 30 Secret 227
PREM19/268 Industrial policy (Consultations with Trades Union Congress (TUC) on economic strategy; Prime Minister’s meetings with TUC representatives) (Part 3) 1980 Aug 20 1980 Oct 16 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 227
PREM19/759 Foreign policy (East/West relations; United States foreign policy) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 2 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 227
PREM19/476 Government machinery (Organisation of Treasury and Civil Service Department (CSD); consideration of a 'Prime Minister's Department') (Part 4) 1981 May 20 1981 Oct 30 2011 Dec 30 1 Secret 227
PREM19/2384 Parliament (MPs' pay and pensions) (Part 6) 1985 Sep 4 1987 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21 2 Confidential 227
PREM19/311 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation (BSC); industrial action by steel unions; Lord Lever’s inquiry and recommendations for settlement accepted by BSC and Steel Union) (Part 6) 1980 Mar 12 1980 Jul 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 228
PREM19/1027 European policy (European Council meeting, Brussels, March 1983) (Part 15) 1983 Feb 7 1983 Mar 23 2013 Aug 1 Secret 228
PREM19/90 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1979 Sep 18 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 228
PREM19/791 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 3) 1982 Oct 6 1982 Nov 6 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 228
PREM19/1145 Trade (Intellectual property rights and innovation) 1982 Jul 19 1983 Dec 22 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 228
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
PREM19/242 Government Machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the scrutiny programme) (Part 4) 1979 Nov 30 1980 Feb 12 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 228
PREM19/2054 Defence (Arms control) (Part 11) 1987 Mar 11 1987 Apr 30 2016 Jul 21 5 Secret and Personal 228
PREM19/180 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 6) 1980 Oct 31 1980 Nov 26 2010 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/801 India (Visit to UK by Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, March 1982: meeting with Prime Minister; Festival of India) (Part 2) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Aug 5 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 229

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