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
PREM19/227 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 9) 1980 Jun 4 1980 Sep 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 196
PREM19/448 Economic policy (Economic effects of industrial action: machinery of government aspects) 1981 Feb 25 1981 Mar 25 2011 Dec 30 Secret 18
PREM19/790 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 8 1982 Oct 5 2012 Dec 28 Secret 240
PREM19/1161 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment) (Part 9) 1983 Feb 1 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 400
PREM19/2413 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Lord Sieff) 1980 Apr 8 1987 Jun 16 2016 Jul 21 Secret 72
PREM19/542 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy; industrial energy pricing) (Part 3) 1980 Oct 20 1981 Mar 12 2011 Dec 30 Secret 230
PREM19/758 Foreign policy (Third United Nations Law of the Sea Conference; extension of the UK territorial sea) 1980 May 6 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 Secret 322
PREM19/72 Industrial policy (Future of Rolls-Royce) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Nov 14 2009 Dec 30 Secret 97
PREM19/1002 Economic policy (Prime Minister's meetings with clearing bank chairmen) 1979 Oct 17 1983 Feb 2 2013 Aug 1 Secret 84
PREM19/289 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 2) 1979 Nov 15 1980 Feb 26 2010 Dec 30 Secret 110
PREM19/636 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 25) 1982 Jun 17 1982 Jun 18 2012 Dec 28 Secret 130
PREM19/164 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 7) 1980 Jan 25 1980 Oct 16 2010 Dec 30 Secret 178
PREM19/852 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy; gas legislation; industrial energy policy; wage negotiations) (Part 6) 1981 Oct 13 1982 Oct 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 449
PREM19/1223 European policy (European Council meeting, Dublin, December 1984) (Part 19) 1984 Nov 28 1984 Dec 24 2014 Jan 3 Secret 209
PREM19/1097 Parliament (Legislative programme, 1983-1984) (Part 10) 1982 Nov 9 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 151

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