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
PREM19/544 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: industrial energy pricing; future of British Gas Corporation's appliance retailing activity) (Part 5) 1981 Jun 5 1981 Oct 12 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 241
PREM19/204 Energy (Energy Policy) (Part 4) 1980 Feb 20 1980 May 7 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 207
PREM19/2762 Local Government (Relations between central and local government: local authority expenditure) (Part 36) 1988 Aug 2 1989 May 26 2017 Jul 20 Secret 415
PREM19/3555 Soviet Union ​​​​​​​(UK/Soviet relations: internal situation)​​​​​​​ (Part 18) 1990 Sep 3 1990 Nov 30 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2522 Social Services (Unemployment Benefit: availability for work test; restriction of benefit payments to European Community nationals; low income statistics) (Part 5) 1986 Oct 28 1988 Nov 9 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 30
PREM19/2678 Food (Food safety) (Part 2) 1989 Apr 3 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1815 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 21) 1986 Jul 2 1986 Oct 31 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1472 Education (Teachers’ pay) (Part 4) 1985 Feb 6 1985 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 347
PREM19/1138 Social services (Treatment of redundancy payments as income for purposes of supplementary benefit) 1983 Sep 30 1983 Nov 7 2013 Aug 1 Secret 9
PREM19/801 India (Visit to UK by Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, March 1982: meeting with Prime Minister; Festival of India) (Part 2) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Aug 5 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 229
PREM19/465 European policy (Prime Minister's address to European Parliament, December 1981) 1980 Nov 3 1981 Dec 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 134
PREM19/5478 Venezuela (Internal situation: UK/Venezuela relations) (Part 1) 1983 Jan 6 1995 Dec 7 2019 Dec 31 Secret 22
PREM19/129 Vietnam (Vietnamese boat people) (Part 1) 1979 May 24 1979 Jun 14 2009 Dec 30 Secret 309
PREM19/3096 National Health (The Cyclotron Trust) (Part 2) 1990 Jun 1 1990 Sep 7 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 111
PREM19/2398 Prime Minister (Submission of papers to the Prime Minister prior to trips abroad and recesses) 1979 Jul 17 1986 Jul 7 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 22

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