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 classification Pagessort descending
PREM19/1460 Economic policy (Policy towards privatisation: disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions) (Part 12 Begins: 1984 Apr 4 Ends: 1985 Nov 29 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 387
PREM19/1723 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: biased teaching and political indoctrination in schools and colleges; University funding) (Part 7) Begins: 1986 May 6 Ends: 1986 May 30 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 387
PREM19/2662 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community; Cabinet Office brief on Community competence) (Part 41) Begins: 1989 Mar 1 Ends: 1989 May 31 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 387
PREM19/1252 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Scrutiny Programme; review of government purchasing) (Part 16) Begins: 1984 Aug 1 Ends: 1984 Nov 20 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 File classification: Confidential Pages: 387
PREM19/3235 Civil Service (Dispersal policy: transfer of government work to the regions) (Part 5) Begins: 1990 Mar 1 Ends: 1991 Feb 28 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Confidential Pages: 387
PREM19/1303 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 18) Begins: 1983 Nov 4 Ends: 1984 Jan 13 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 File classification: Confidential Pages: 387
PREM19/1714 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Tokyo) (Part 20) Begins: 1985 Jun 14 Ends: 1986 May 6 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Secret Pages: 388
PREM19/1198 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 12) Begins: 1984 Mar 1 Ends: 1984 Mar 14 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 File classification: Secret Pages: 388
PREM19/1088 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 11) Begins: 1983 Feb 3 Ends: 1983 Dec 28 Date of release: 2013 Aug 1 File classification: Secret Pages: 388
PREM19/3623 Canada (Prime Minister's visits to Canada, 25-28 Sep 1983 and 17-18 Dcr 1992) Begins: 1983 Aug 31 Ends: 1992 Dec 17 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Secret Pages: 390
PREM19/1456 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 12) Begins: 1984 Dec 5 Ends: 1985 Apr 26 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 390
PREM19/2303 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 35) Begins: 1988 Apr 5 Ends: 1988 Jul 29 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 File classification: Secret Pages: 390
PREM19/1693 Defence (Arms control) (Part 7) Begins: 1985 Aug 1 Ends: 1986 Feb 27 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 390
PREM19/2891 USA (UK/USA relations) (Part 6) Begins: 1987 Jul 2 Ends: 1989 Mar 17 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 3 File classification: Secret Pages: 391
PREM19/2652 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; London Conference on Saving the Ozone Layer, March 1989) (Part 6) Begins: 1988 Aug 1 Ends: 1989 Jan 31 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 392

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