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?sort descending File classification Pages
PREM19/1721 Economic policy (The 1986 Budget) (Part 15) 1986 Feb 5 1986 Apr 24 2014 Dec 30 Budget Secret 354
PREM19/28 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Tokyo) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 30 1979 Oct 18 2009 Dec 30 Secret 114
PREM19/1378 Security (Leakage of NATO Alliance documents to Soviet Union by official in Belgian Foreign Ministry) 1984 Aug 3 1984 Aug 6 2014 Jan 3 Secret 7
PREM19/1042 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Rayner Scrutiny Programme 1982/83) (Part 13) 1982 Nov 2 1983 Feb 28 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 386
PREM19/705 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 7) 1982 Apr 29 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 155
PREM19/369 Social Services (Prime Minister’s meeting with representatives of the Community Service Volunteers to discuss youth unemployment) 1980 Jul 2 1980 Nov 11 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 78
PREM19/4354 Portugal (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers Francisco Balsemao, December 1981 and Anibal Cavaco Silva, March 1988) (Part 1) 1981 Nov 6 1993 Jan 28 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3269 Economic Policy (Briefing for the Prime Minister by Sir Alan Walters) 1989 May 10 1991 Jan 15 2017 Jul 20 Secret 35
PREM19/2283 Japan (Visits of Japanese CBI (Keidanren) to the UK, 1981 and 1986) 1981 Aug 24 1986 Oct 22 2016 Jul 21 Restricted 29
PREM19/2989 European Policy (UK air transport policy in Europe) 1979 Nov 8 1990 May 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2188 Government Buildings (Refurbishing of Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms) (Part 1) 1980 Jun 1 1988 Aug 12 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1639 Social Services (Reform of social security: pensions, housing benefit and supplementary benefit; child support) (Part 2) 1985 Apr 4 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 251
PREM19/961 Cabinet (Brevity in recording of Cabinet and Committee minutes; guidance on Cabinet papers) 1979 May 21 1983 Jun 17 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 9
PREM19/626 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 15) 1982 May 8 1982 May 10 2012 Dec 28 Secret 260
PREM19/285 Israel (Visit to UK by Yigael Yadin, Deputy Prime Minister, March 1980: call on Prime Minister) 1980 Mar 3 1980 Apr 3 2010 Dec 30 Secret 19

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