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 descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/967 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; policy on Civil Service numbers, Financial Management Initiative; response to Select Committee report on efficiency and effectiveness in Civil Service; the extension of unified grading; obligations of managers) (Part 12) 1982 Dec 2 1983 May 24 2013 Aug 1
PREM19/632 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 21) 1982 May 28 1982 May 31 2012 Dec 28 Secret 162
PREM19/291 Local Government (Waste in local authority expenditure) 1979 May 8 1980 May 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 248
PREM19/4212 Home Affairs (Interim payments for civil legal aid work: criminal legal aid remuneration) (Part 2) 1986 Dec 1 1993 Jul 7 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3408 Ireland ​​​​​​​(Situation in Northern Ireland)(Part 27) 1989 Jan 20 1990 Apr 26 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2183 France (Visits to UK by Raymond Barre, December 1981, April 1983, January 1986 and March 1987) 1980 Dec 1 1987 Mar 25 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2858 Somalia (Visit to the UK by Major-General Mohamed Siad Barre, President of Somalia (June 1988); visit by Mohamed Ali Samatar, Prime Minister of Somalia (January 1989)) 1982 Mar 4 1989 Apr 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2038 Civil Service (Contracts of employment; possible legislation to enable civil servants to be laid off without pay; Civil Service nationality rules; responsibility for discipline in the Civil Service) 1980 Jun 27 1987 Jul 7 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1560 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 26) 1985 Mar 1 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 369
PREM19/1224 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 12) 1983 Dec 1 1984 Dec 20 2014 Jan 3 Secret 354
PREM19/887 Prime Minister (Meeting with Albert Booth MP to discuss closure of Derwest Jennings factory in Barrow-in-Furness) 1982 Feb 2 1982 Jul 20 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 30
PREM19/211 Energy (Burgoyne Committee report on offshore safety; transfer of responsibility) 1980 Mar 27 1980 Oct 29 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 24
PREM19/2731 Housing​​​​​​​ (Reform of housing benefits) 1980 Jun 24 1989 May 4 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3545 South Africa (UK/South Africa relations: internal situation) (Part 23) 1990 Jul 11 1990 Dec 28 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2550 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy) (Part 4) 1986 Aug 18 1987 Oct 29 2016-07-2016 Restricted 102

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