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 Titlesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/247 Government Machinery (Ministerial co-ordination of maritime affairs) 1979 May 16 1980 Feb 21 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 14
PREM19/1775 Government Machinery (Ministerial responsibility for coordinating the presentation of government policies) 1983 Nov 28 1986 Jul 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/63 Government machinery (Ministerial responsibility for population matters) 1979 Jun 1 1979 Jun 4 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 4
PREM19/2192 Government Machinery (Ministerial responsibility for the arts and libraries) 1979 May 14 1987 Jul 16 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2703 Government Machinery (Monopolies and mergers) (Part 3) 1988 Mar 7 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2704 Government Machinery (Monopolies and mergers) (Part 4) 1989 Mar 8 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1780 Government Machinery (Non-dePartmental public bodies (quangos): a Guide for Departments; review programme) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 2 1986 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1781 Government Machinery (Non-dePartmental public bodies (quangos): review programme) (Part 3) 1986 Aug 1 1986 Sep 9 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/475 Government machinery (Organisation of Treasury and Civil Service Department (CSD)) (Part 3) 1980 Dec 3 1981 Feb 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 253
PREM19/476 Government machinery (Organisation of Treasury and Civil Service Department (CSD); consideration of a 'Prime Minister's Department') (Part 4) 1981 May 20 1981 Oct 30 2011 Dec 30 1 Secret 227
PREM19/780 Government machinery (Organisation of Treasury and Civil Service Department (CSD); reorganisation of the central departments; creation of Management and Personnel Office (MPO); future of Efficiency Unit; policy advice for Prime Minister) (Part 5) 1981 Nov 4 1982 Jul 30 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 303
PREM19/1777 Government Machinery (Possible transfer of responsibility for VAT Tribunals from Customs and Excise to the Lord Chancellor: dePartmental responsibility for tribunals) 1985 Apr 1 1986 Dec 4 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/477 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Rayner Scrutiny Programme) (Part 7) 1980 Nov 26 1981 Feb 2 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 260
PREM19/478 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Rayner Scrutiny Programme) (Part 8) 1981 Feb 2 1981 May 20 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 436
PREM19/479 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Rayner Scrutiny Programme) (Part 9) 1981 May 21 1981 Sep 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 341

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