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 classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/223 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 5) 1980 Jan 22 1980 Feb 25 2010 Dec 30 Secret 144
PREM19/1583 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity policy: gas industry privatisation; industrial energy policy) (Part 11) 1985 Jun 3 1985 Nov 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 231
PREM19/952 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 34) 1983 Apr 2 1983 Sep 16 2013 Aug 1 6 Secret 313
PREM19/444 Economic policy (Disposal of public sector assets) (Part 4) 1980 Oct 31 1981 Oct 21 2011 Dec 30 Secret 255
PREM19/1456 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 12) 1985 Dec 5 1985 Apr 26 2014 Dec 30 Secret 390
PREM19/2171 Fiji (UK/Fiji relations; visits to UK by Ratu Sir Kamisese Maru, April 1981, April 1983 and March 1988) 1981 Mar 24 1988 Aug 22 2016 Jul 21 7 Secret 185
PREM19/2957 Education (General policy on education) (Part 26) 1990 Jun 1 1990 Nov 16 2016 Dec 30 Secret 320
PREM19/2437 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Copenhagen, December 1987: administrative arrangements) 1987 Aug 28 1987 Dec 3 2016 Jul 21 10 Secret 68
PREM19/316 New Hebrides (Independence; security situation; disturbances on Santo and Tanna; Anglo/French consultations) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 31 1980 Jul 17 2010 Dec 30 Secret 153
PREM19/1334 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 13) 1984 Sep 21 1984 Oct 19 2014 Jan 3 2 Secret 396
PREM19/704 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 6) 1982 Jan 25 1982 Apr 28 2012 Dec 28 Secret 194
PREM19/537 National health (Doctors' and dentists' pay; report of Review Body; consultants' contracts) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 25 1981 May 15 2011 Dec 30 Secret 162
PREM19/1208 Economic policy (G7 Summit - London) (Part 16A) 1984 May 22 1984 May 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 212
PREM19/920 Social services (Uprating of social security benefits) (Part 1) 1979 May 17 1980 Jan 10 2012 Dec 28 Secret 79
PREM19/1424 Chile (UK/Chilean relations: policy on arms sales) 1979 Sep 17 1985 Dec 9 2014 Dec 30 Secret 328

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