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?sort ascending File classification Pages
PREM19/2580 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 40) 1988 Jul 5 1988 Dec 13 2016 Dec 30 Secret 361
PREM19/2718 Home Affairs (Government support for voluntary bodies) (Part 1) 1985 Mar 11 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1838 Local Government (Water industry: structural change) (Part 3) 1985 Dec 2 1986 Apr 21 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 265
PREM19/1160 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; annexes to report by Professor Patrick Minford, 'UK unemployment - analysis and policy proposals') (Part 8C) 1982 Sep 6 1983 Jan 29 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 355
PREM19/147 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 10 1980 Apr 10 2010 Dec 30 Secret 162
PREM19/2995 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visits to Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Switzerland, 16-23 September 1990: briefing) 1990 Sep 12 1990 Sep 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3631 Civil Service (Rules on the acceptance of business appointments by civil servants following resignation or retirement) (Part 2) 1987 Jul 8 1991 Oct 17 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 109
PREM19/2422 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Sir Brandon Rhys Williams MP) 1986 Nov 11 1987 Nov 25 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 72
PREM19/1902 Prime Minister (Meeting with Neville Trotter MP about Swan Hunter shipyard) 1986 Feb 27 1986 Mar 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2569 USA (Visit to UK by President Reagan, June 1988) 1984 Jun 1 1988 Sep 23 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/66 Home affairs (Sale of Isle of Iona) 1979 May 21 1979 Jun 7 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 12
PREM19/1416 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 1B) 1985 Dec 10 1985 Dec 27 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 213
PREM19/1080 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 16) 1983 Jul 4 1983 Sep 16 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 325
PREM19/743 European policy (European Monetary System (EMS)) (Part 1) 1979 May 7 1982 Feb 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 252
PREM19/408 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy; Sir Derek Rayner's recommendations for reforms; Civil Service numbers and costs; performance related pay) (Part 7) 1980 Nov 18 1981 Mar 6 2011 Dec 30 Secret 224

Pages