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? File classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/463 European policy (European Council meeting in London, November 1981) (Part 8) 1981 Oct 13 1981 Nov 24 2011 Dec 30 Secret 250
PREM19/2607 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM), Kuala Lumpur, October 1989) (Part 15) 1989 Oct 1 1989 Oct 21 2016 Dec 30 2 Secret 322
PREM19/1148 United Nations (Second Special Session on Disarmament; Prime Minister's visit to New York and Washington, June 1982) (Part 1) 1982 Feb 16 1983 Oct 19 2013 Aug 1 Secret 282
PREM19/3069 Manpower (Special employment measures: future of the Employment Service; training policy) (Part 22) 1989 Aug 1 1990 Jan 23 2017 Jul 20 1 Secret 369
PREM19/556 Parliament (Legislative programme, 1981-1982) (Part 7) 1981 Apr 1 1981 Jul 28 2011 Dec 30 Secret 171
PREM19/3964 Transport (London Regional Transport: East-West Crossrail) (Part 4) 1990 May 8 1992 Aug 27 2017 Dec 29 Secret 311
PREM19/1240 (annex) France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand; briefing for May 1982 meeting of Franco-British Council in Edinburgh) (Part 3) 1981 Sep 11 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3 Secret 171
PREM19/1584 Nationalised Industries (Nationalised industry legislation: investment and financing review; privatisation; report on state monopolies) (Part 9) 1984 Jun 4 1985 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 299
PREM19/83 Ireland (Northern Ireland situation) (Part 4) 1979 Oct 24 1979 Nov 29 2009 Dec 30 1 Secret 225
PREM19/431 Economic policy (Policy towards small firms) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 8 1981 Apr 7 2011 Dec 30 Secret 233
PREM19/1457 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 13) 1985 May 10 1985 Jun 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 394
PREM19/2675 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS)) (Part 3) 1987 Jun 10 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30 Secret 327
PREM19/2350 National Health (Seminars on health and social security matters: NHS Review) (Part 3) 1988 Mar 2 1988 May 23 2016 Jul 21 Secret 410
PREM19/991 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 21) 1983 Jan 21 1983 Feb 7 2013 Aug 1 Secret 350
PREM19/992 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 24) 1983 Jun 6 1983 Aug 25 2013 Aug 1 Secret 431

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