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 classification Pagessort descending Link to selections
PREM19/446 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Ottawa) (Part 7) 1981 Jul 16 1981 Nov 10 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 252
PREM19/2428 Prime Minister (Policy Unit briefing for Prime Minister: general topics) 1983 Mar 1 1987 Mar 4 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 252
PREM19/959 Belize (Future of Belize) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 1 1982 May 4 2013 Aug 1 Secret 252
PREM19/2519 Social Services (Review of social security benefits: Social Fund) (Part 5) 1986 Oct 1 1987 Sep 29 2016 Jul 21 Secret 252
PREM19/401 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; Civil Service pay dispute; industrial action; proposal for independent inquiry) (Part 4) 1981 Apr 16 1981 May 18 2011 Dec 30 Secret 252
PREM19/737 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 13) 1981 Dec 2 1982 Feb 3 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 252
PREM19/475 Government machinery (Organisation of Treasury and Civil Service Department (CSD)) (Part 3) 1980 Dec 3 1981 Feb 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 253
PREM19/1597 Parliament (MPs' pay and pensions) (Part 5) 1982 Oct 15 1985 Mar 26 2014 Dec 30 Secret 253
PREM19/1634 Security (Security Commission: review of security procedures; appointments; cases referred; 'Three Advisers' on appeals against positive vetting clearance refusals - terms of reference and procedures) 1981 Apr 1 1985 Sep 5 2014 Dec 30 Secret 253
PREM19/1782 Home Affairs (Capital punishment: sentencing policy) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 11 1986 Mar 5 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 253
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
PREM19/1211 Economic policy (G7 Summit - London) (Part 17) 1984 Jun 8 1984 Nov 23 2014 Jan 3 Secret 254
PREM19/2117 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: future of polytechnics; funding regime for schools) (Part 10) 1986 Nov 3 1986 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21 Secret and Personal 254
PREM19/833 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Parts 10 and 11) 1982 Apr 16 1982 Jun 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 254
PREM19/691 Defence (Replacement of Royal Air Force (RAF) communications aircraft; aircraft for Queen's Flight) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 16 1982 Nov 24 2013 Nov 20 10 Secret 254

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