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
PREM19/1722 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: grant aided schools; biased teaching and political indoctrination in schools and colleges) (Part 6) 1985 Sep 4 1986 Apr 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 431
PREM19/1221 European policy (European Council meeting, Brussels, March 1984) (Part 17) 1983 Jul 8 1984 Mar 22 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 306
PREM19/884 Prime Minister (Meetings with Geoffrey Robinson MP to discuss redundancies in Jaguar factories in Coventry) 1981 Jun 1 1982 Jan 21 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 28
PREM19/548 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; the Iron and Steel Bill; British Steel Corporation (BSC) corporate plan) (Part 8) 1980 Dec 4 1981 Feb 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 155
PREM19/3880 Parliament Review of electoral law and procedures: Representation of the People Bills 1981 Nov 11 1992 Mar 12 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/208 Energy (Coking coal: National Coal Board grant; British Steel Corporation imports) 1979 Jul 23 1980 Sep 8 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 52
PREM19/2988 European Policy (Setting up of European Bank of Reconstruction and Development) 1989 Dec 14 1990 Sep 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2199 Government Machinery (Special advisers; appointment procedure) (Part 3) 1984 Jan 12 1987 Jun 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1640 Social Services (Reform of social security: pensions, housing benefit and supplementary benefit; child support) (Part 3) 1985 Jun 3 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 347
PREM19/1141 Sport (Invitation to Princess Anne to become President of British Olympic Association) 1983 Mar 4 1983 Apr 12 Closed until 2024-01-01 Unknown
PREM19/805 Industrial policy (Information technology (IT): appointment of IT Advisory Panel and establishment of IT Unit in Cabinet Office; Kenneth Baker's role as Minister for IT) (Part 2) 1981 Apr 1 1981 Oct 31 2012 Dec 28 Restricted 158
PREM19/3252 Defence ​​​​​​​(The Defence Budget: Statement on the Defence Estimates, 1988-1991)(Part 13) 1987 Jul 10 1991 Feb 10 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/469 France (Visit to UK by President Giscard d'Estaing, November 1979: Anglo-French Summit) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 11 1981 Mar 10 2011 Dec 30 Secret 190
PREM19/2924 Civil Service (Proposal by Anne Sloman and Hugo Young of Radio 4 for a radio series on the Treasury: proposed series by the BBC on 'Pillars of State') 1982 Nov 30 1990 Mar 23 2016 Dec 30 Unclassified 21
PREM19/2835 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget) (Part 8) 1988 Dec 1 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30

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