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 releasesort ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/549 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; British Steel Corporation (BSC) corporate plan; overlap between BSC and private sector; rationalisation of the UK engineering steel making facilities) (Part 9) 1981 Feb 17 1981 Apr 6 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 245
PREM19/424 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 9) 1981 Jun 11 1981 Oct 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 272
PREM19/517 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 7) 1981 Nov 2 1981 Dec 1 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 134
PREM19/395 Broadcasting (Legislation on broadcasting; fourth TV channel; Welsh language broadcasting (threatened hunger strike by former Plaid Cymru MP Gwynfor Evans); renewal of BBC Charter) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 16 1981 Jun 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 172
PREM19/488 India (UK/Indian relations; Indo/Soviet arms deal) (Part 1) 1980 May 28 1981 Jan 28 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 165
PREM19/581 Royal family (Visits to Northern Ireland by Princess Alexandra, June 1979 and June 1981) 1979 May 14 1981 May 29 2011 Dec 30 3 Secret 9
PREM19/456 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 8) 1981 Apr 1 1981 Nov 19 2011 Dec 30 Secret 248
PREM19/550 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; British Steel Corporation (BSC) corporate plan; overlap between BSC and private sector; assistance to private sector steel firms) (Part 10) 1981 Apr 7 1981 Dec 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 218
PREM19/425 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 10) 1981 Oct 12 1981 Dec 3 2011 Dec 30 Secret 169
PREM19/518 Local government (Pay of local authority manual workers; Fire Service dispute; industrial action in the water industry) (Part 1) 1980 Oct 23 1981 Nov 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 171
PREM19/396 Cabinet (Questions of Procedure for Ministers: revision and reissue; disclosure of structure and details of Cabinet committees) 1979 May 4 1981 Sep 23 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 171
PREM19/489 Industrial policy (Information Technology: shortcomings of interdepartmental Whitehall machinery; Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) and Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development (ACARD) reports) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 25 1981 Mar 30 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 132
PREM19/457 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 10) 1980 Sep 23 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 191
PREM19/551 Nepal (Visits to UK by King Birendra of Nepal, September 1979 and November 1980: calls on the Prime Minister) 1979 Aug 15 1981 Apr 24 2011 Dec 30 3 Confidential 141
PREM19/426 Economic policy (Top Salaries Review Body (TSRB): future role; resignation of Lord Boyle of Handsworth as chairman; appointment of Lord Plowden) 1980 Jun 25 1981 Mar 4 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 96

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