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?sort ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1024 European policy (European Council meeting, Copenhagen, December 1982: briefing papers) (Part 12A) 1982 Nov 16 1982 Dec 2 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 279
PREM19/687 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 7) 1981 Jul 2 1982 Feb 12 2012 Dec 28 Secret 219
PREM19/123 South Korea (Call on MT by South Korean Presidential envoy) 1979 May 28 1979 Jun 28 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 26
PREM19/3321 European Policy ​​​​​​​(European Council meeting, Rome, December 1990)(Part 38) 1990 Nov 8 1991 Apr 11 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3940 Security (Policy on interception of communications)(Part 7) 1988 Feb 29 1992 Aug 20 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/207 Energy (Energy conservation and home insulation schemes: oil demand restraint) (Part 1) 1979 May 31 1980 Apr 8 2010 Dec 30 Secret 262
PREM19/2247 Industrial Policy (Industrial production) 1987 Jul 14 1987 Aug 10 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 29
PREM19/2965 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Environmental Protection Bill) (Part 13) 1989 Dec 1 1990 Jan 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2133 Elections (Election procedure) (Part 3) 1987 May 13 1988 Mar 31 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1621 Security (Publication of 'British Intelligence and Covert Action' by Jonathan Bloch and Patrick Fitzgerald: security issues; Bloch's UK refugee residency status; protection of intelligence identities) 1983 Mar 9 1985 Oct 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1281 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 10) 1983 Mar 4 1984 Apr 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/608 Italy (Prime Minister's visit to Italy, November 1980: Anglo/Italian Summit) 1980 Jul 25 1981 Feb 24 2011 Dec 30 Secret 86
PREM19/3460 National Health ​​​​​​​(Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): implementation of NHS reforms)(Part 25) 1990 Jun 1 1990 Dec 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/468 France (Visit to UK by Jacques Chaban-Delmas, President of National Assembly, March 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Mar 2 1981 Mar 20 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 13
PREM19/2779 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service: community care) (Part 22) 1989 Jul 5 1989 Oct 30 2016 Dec 30

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