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 Endssort ascending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/326 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 4) 1980 Feb 15 1980 Mar 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 191
PREM19/201 Education (Committee of inquiry into the education of handicapped children and young people: responses to the Warnock Report, 1978) 1980 Feb 15 1980 Jul 22 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 17
PREM19/145 Civil Service (Proposal to close Public Record Office research room in Chancery Lane) 1980 Feb 14 1980 Apr 22 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 23
PREM19/243 Government Machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the scrutiny programme) (Part 5) 1980 Feb 14 1980 May 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 244
PREM19/263 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 4) 1980 Feb 14 1980 Apr 11 2010 Dec 30 Secret 215
PREM19/3040 Industrial Policy (Review of the arrangements for consultation with the construction industry: private investment in construction) 1980 Feb 14 1990 Oct 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3300 Education ​​​​​​​(Payments to school and college governors: college governing bodies) 1980 Feb 13 1991 May 14 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/298 Morocco (Visit to UK by former Prime Minister, Ahmed Osman, March 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 Feb 13 1980 Mar 12 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 20
PREM19/2863 South Africa (Visit to UK by F W de Klerk, leader of the South African National Party, June 1989) 1980 Feb 12 1989 Jul 11 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1546 Ireland (Lear Fan aircraft project at Aldergove) 1980 Feb 12 1985 Oct 15 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 72
PREM19/329 Parliament (Top Salaries Review Body report on Parliamentary pay) (Part 2) 1980 Feb 12 1980 Jul 10 2010 Dec 30 Secret 194
PREM19/170 Economic policy (Privatization) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 11 1980 Oct 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 182
PREM19/406 Civil service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs) (Part 1) 1980 Feb 8 1981 Jul 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 288
PREM19/3768 Germany (Visits to the UK by Franz Josef Strauss and Dr Max Streibl, Ministers-President of Bavaria​​​​​​​) 1980 Feb 7 1992 Feb 19 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/215 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 5 1980 Mar 10 2010 Dec 30 Secret 116

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