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
PREM19/176 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 3) 1979 Mar 1 1980 May 12 2010 Dec 30 Secret 198
PREM19/1207 Economic policy (G7 Summit - London) (Part 15) 1984 Mar 2 1984 May 21 2014 Jan 3 2 Secret 368
PREM19/1208 Economic policy (G7 Summit - London) (Part 16A) 1984 May 22 1984 May 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 212
PREM19/1424 Chile (UK/Chilean relations: policy on arms sales) 1979 Sep 17 1985 Dec 9 2014 Dec 30 9 Secret 328
PREM19/401 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; Civil Service pay dispute; industrial action; proposal for independent inquiry) (Part 4) 1981 Apr 16 1981 May 18 2011 Dec 30 Secret 252
PREM19/2454 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to NATO Summit, March 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jan 19 1988 Mar 7 2016 Jul 21 6 Secret 35
PREM19/617 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 6) 1982 Apr 12 1982 Apr 15 2012 Dec 28 Secret 278
PREM19/3218 Australia (Visit of the Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, to London, June 1989) (Part 2) 1988 Aug 30 1991 May 29 2017 Jul 20 3 Secret 196
PREM19/1176 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; Civil Service manpower; senior management programme; financial management in government departments; unified grading) (Part 16) 1984 Jul 2 1984 Nov 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 425
PREM19/147 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 10 1980 Apr 10 2010 Dec 30 Secret 162
PREM19/2776 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; draft White Paper) (Part 19) 1989 Jan 23 1989 Feb 21 2016 Dec 30 Secret 135
PREM19/494 Industrial policy (National Union of Mineworkers (NUM): structure and procedures, and leading personalities; likely tactics in pay negotiations) 1980 Mar 17 1981 Oct 27 2011 Dec 30 Secret 40
PREM19/21 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 4) 1979 Sep 6 1979 Sep 28 2009 Dec 30 Secret 106
PREM19/710 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 14) 1982 Feb 22 1982 Mar 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 327
PREM19/3623 Canada (Prime Minister's visits to Canada, 25-28 Sep 1983 and 17-18 Dcr 1992) 1983 Aug 31 1992 Dec 17 2017 Dec 29 1 Secret 390

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