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 classification Pagessort descending
PREM19/807 Industrial policy (UK newsprint production: closure of Bowater's mill at Ellesmere Port) 1980 Jul 28 1982 Dec 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 254
PREM19/444 Economic policy (Disposal of public sector assets) (Part 4) 1980 Oct 31 1981 Oct 21 2011 Dec 30 Secret 255
PREM19/1811 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach) (Part 14) 1986 Feb 17 1986 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 255
PREM19/1518 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste) (Part 19) 1985 Aug 1 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 255
PREM19/718 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 20) 1982 Jul 15 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 255
PREM19/735 Energy (Energy policy; nuclear power policy; fast reactor policy; Sizewell Inquiry; oil depletion policy) (Part 7) 1982 Jan 26 1982 Oct 14 2012 Dec 28 Secret 255
PREM19/2233 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 7) 1987 Feb 2 1987 Mar 20 2016 Jul 21 Secret 255
PREM19/3414 Japan (Internal situation) (Part 2) 1987 Mar 5 1991 Oct 28 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 255
PREM19/62 Government machinery (Rayner review) (Part 3) 1979 Sep 17 1979 Nov 29 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 255
PREM19/3367 Government Machinery (Forthcoming announcements and publications) (Part 5) 1989 Sep 1 1991 Jul 22 2017 Jul 20 Secret 255
PREM19/1010 Education (Training colleges; extension of technical and vocational education; National Training Commission; responsibility for work related training) (Part 1) 1982 Oct 25 1983 Dec 23 2013 Aug 1 5 Secret 255
PREM19/3544 South Korea (UK/South Korea relations: internal situation) (Part 2) 1986 Sep 11 1991 Jun 17 2017 Dec 29 3 Confidential 255
PREM19/3237 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Harare, Zimbabwe, October 1991) (Part 17) 1990 Jun 7 1991 Oct 9 2017 Jul 20 9 Top Secret 255
PREM19/1324 Nationalised industries (Shipbuilding policy; prospects for British Shipbuilders) (Part 4) 1982 Jul 19 1983 Jun 27 2014 Jan 3 Secret 256
PREM19/2527 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK ) (Part 17) 1988 Sep 1 1988 Dec 22 29 Dec 2017 7 Secret - Cab 1 (Delicate source) 256

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