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 ascending Pages
PREM19/736 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 9) 1981 Nov 20 1982 Mar 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 133
PREM19/2448 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to NATO, February 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Sep 25 1988 Feb 22 2016 Jul 21 2 Confidential 53
PREM19/264 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 5) 1980 Apr 14 1980 Jul 16 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 192
PREM19/611 Argentina (Frederick Forsyth's proposed book on the Falklands crisis) 1982 Jun 15 1982 Aug 4 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 25
PREM19/3225 Broadcasting (Party political broadcasting) (Part 3) 1986 Apr 9 1991 Sep 12 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 87
PREM19/1512 Government Machinery (General Lighthouse Authorities: public inquiry; UK/Republic of Ireland agreement on Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL)) 1982 Jun 18 1985 Aug 2 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 40
PREM19/488 India (UK/Indian relations; Indo/Soviet arms deal) (Part 1) 1980 May 28 1981 Jan 28 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 165
PREM19/2143 European Policy (European Community telecommunications: Research for an Advanced Communications Environment (RACE)) 1985 Mar 19 1986 Nov 24 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 22
PREM19/830 Local government (The water industry: structural change; constitution of Welsh Water Authority; review of land drainage and flood protection) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 31 1982 Oct 4 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 240
PREM19/2416 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Martin Feldstein, Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers in Washington, on 27 April 1984) 1984 Mar 14 1988 Jan 11 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 15
PREM19/1047 Government machinery (Appointment and role of Chief Scientist, Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS); role and function of CPRS) 1981 Apr 9 1983 Jan 13 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 57
PREM19/3630 Civil Service (Prime Minister's meetings with Permanent Secretaries) 1988 Feb 1 1992 Sep 15 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 28
PREM19/1261 Home affairs (Proposed acquisition of ‘Observer’ newspaper by Tiny Rowland's Lonrho Group; Robert Maxwell's bids for Mirror Group and Express Group of newspapers) 1981 Jun 12 1984 Jul 13 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 22
PREM19/2127 Education (Reorganisation of schools in Ilkeston, Derbyshire: Prime Minister's concern at deficiencies in Department of Education and Science (DES) decision-making procedures) 1987 Dec 2 1988 Feb 24 2016 Jul 21 1 Confidential 56
PREM19/235 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 3) 1980 May 9 1980 Aug 15 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 178

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