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 descending File classification Pages
PREM19/320 Pakistan (Visit to UK by Agha Shahi, Foreign Minister, June 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 Jun 12 1980 Jun 19 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 70
PREM19/4583 Cabinet (Cabinet meetings) (Part 1) 1979 May 6 1994 Jul 20 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3358 Government Hospitality ​​​​​​​(The standard of catering and service provided by the Government Hospitality Fund: recommendation that government hospitality be subject to a Rayner study​​​​​​​) 1979 Jul 5 1991 May 31 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 132
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
PREM19/2925 Civil Service (Property Services Agency (PSA) restructuring: privatisation of PSA services) (Part 3) 1988 Mar 4 1990 Jul 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2088 Economic Policy (Strategy) (Part 27) 1985 Jan 8 1987 Jul 24 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1591 Overseas Aid (Overseas aid policy: International Development Association (IDA)) (Part 4) 1984 Jan 4 1985 Jun 25 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1252 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Scrutiny Programme; review of government purchasing) (Part 16) 1984 Aug 1 1984 Nov 20 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 387
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
PREM19/1870 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 9) 1986 Feb 14 1986 Apr 30 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2605 Commonwealth (Development Corporation: annual reports) 1980 May 7 1989 May 2 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 69
PREM19/2742 Industrial Policy (Policy towards employee involvement: profit sharing and share options) 1979 Sep 25 1989 Oct 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1510 Government Machinery (Departmental responsibility for the National Heritage) 1984 Dec 14 1985 Dec 20 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 25
PREM19/1174 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; Civil Service manpower; personnel work in Civil Service; the extension of unified grading; equal opportunities) (Part 14) 1983 Oct 3 1984 Jan 25 2014 Jan 3 Secret 368
PREM19/837 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) Unemployment Study) (Part 6) 1981 Nov 2 1982 Mar 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 382

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