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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1451 Drugs (Drug misuse: trafficking; proposed legislation; Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) report) (Part 2) 1985 Jun 3 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 219
PREM19/716 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 18) 1981 Dec 14 1982 Mar 10 2012 Dec 28 Secret 474
PREM19/3780 Government Machinery Special Political Advisers: appointments (Part 5) 1989 Sep 4 1992 Apr 30 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2321 Manpower (Strategy for industry and employment: White Paper 'Employment, the Challenge for the Nation') (Part 4) 1985 Mar 5 1988 May 4 2016 Jul 21 Secret 199
PREM19/3065 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 18) 1990 Apr 2 1990 Apr 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/241 Government Machinery (Responsibility for science matters; future of Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development (ACARD)) (Part 1) 1979 May 16 1980 Feb 28 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 147
PREM19/2500 Security (Reform of Official Secrets Act: proposed Protection of Official Information Bill; enforcing the duty of confidentiality) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1987 Oct 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1714 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Tokyo) (Part 20) 1985 Jun 14 1986 May 6 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1371 Security (Irish terrorist activity in Great Britain) (Part 1A) 1979 May 10 1982 Aug 11 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/3558 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations: internal situation; August 1991 coup)(Part 21) 1991 Aug 1 1991 Aug 23 2017 Dec 29 Secret 513
PREM19/972 Defence (Briefing on military capabilities of Warsaw Pact) 1979 May 21 1983 Jan 19 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 25
PREM19/637 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 26) 1982 Jun 19 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 212
PREM19/161 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1980 Jan 17 2010 Dec 30 Secret 129
PREM19/2217 Home Affairs (Capital punishment; sentencing policy) (Part 2) 1986 Mar 7 1987 Feb 23 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 199
PREM19/2925 Civil Service (Property Services Agency (PSA) restructuring: privatisation of PSA services) (Part 3) 1988 Mar 4 1990 Jul 27 2016 Dec 30

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