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.

 

File name Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/1802 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland) (Part 11) 1986 May 1 1986 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 Secret 239
PREM19/647 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 5) 1982 May 5 1982 May 14 2012 Dec 28 Secret 138
PREM19/2346 National Health (Primary health care: draft White Paper) (Part 1) 1986 Mar 6 1988 Oct 30 2016 Jul 21 Secret 106
PREM19/1332 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 11) 1984 Jul 19 1984 Aug 31 2014 Jan 3 3 Secret 304
PREM19/175 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 11 1980 Feb 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/521 Luxembourg (Visit to UK by Gaston Thorn (Foreign Minister of Luxembourg and President-designate of the European Commission), October 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1979 Jun 26 1981 Oct 14 2011 Dec 30 Secret 74
PREM19/1206 Economic policy (G7 Summit - London) (Part 14) 1983 Jan 28 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3 Secret 327
PREM19/399 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; review of pay research system; staffing problems in London) (Part 2) 1980 May 16 1981 Feb 25 2011 Dec 30 Secret 178
PREM19/1083 Local government (Industrial action in water industry; contingency planning) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 13 1983 Feb 8 2013 Aug 1 Secret 240
PREM19/615 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 4) 1982 Apr 6 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 233
PREM19/956 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (chaired by Lord Franks): general correspondence) (Part 4) 1983 Jan 19 1983 May 6 2013 Aug 1 Secret 229
PREM19/1174 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; Civil Service manpower; personnel work in Civil Service; the extension of unified grading; equal opportunities) (Part 14) 1983 Oct 3 1984 Jan 25 2014 Jan 3 Secret 368
PREM19/492 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland (BL)) (Part 4) 1980 Jul 2 1981 Jan 22 2011 Dec 30 Secret 257
PREM19/19 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 1 1979 Jul 16 2009 Dec 30 Secret 206
PREM19/3628 Civil Service (Civil Service manpower: early retirement) (Part 5) 1990 Aug 1 1992 Nov 10 2017 Dec 29 Secret 95

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