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 ascending File classification Pages
PREM19/835 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 13) 1982 Jul 16 1982 Oct 15 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 152
PREM19/499 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland; force levels) (Part 9) 1981 Mar 3 1981 Aug 23 2011 Dec 30 Secret 277
PREM19/158 Defence (Defence equipment trade with USA; possible sale of improved Harriers - the AV-8B) 1979 Dec 14 1980 Jul 31 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 42
PREM19/2921 China (Sino-Soviet relations: visits by Edward Heath MP) 1979 May 15 1990 Jan 15 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3612 Austria (Visits to the UK by Chancellor Kreisky and his successor Chancellor Vranitsky) 1980 Jun 27 1992 Oct 12 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 100
PREM19/1916 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to France for Anglo-French Summit, Paris, November 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 May 7 1986 Nov 24 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2594 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy) (Part 8) 1989 May 2 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1771 Government Machinery (Review of administrative forms) (Part 1) 1980 Aug 14 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1428 Civil Service (Pay and pensions: performance related pay) (Part 14) 1984 Mar 2 1985 Feb 25 2014 Dec 30 Secret 274
PREM19/1092 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 7) 1982 Sep 9 1983 May 10 2013 Aug 1 Secret 330
PREM19/755 European policy (European Council meeting, Luxembourg, December 1980: briefing papers) 1980 Nov 17 1980 Nov 28 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 271
PREM19/420 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 15) 1981 Oct 9 1981 Oct 23 2011 Dec 30 Secret 166
PREM19/4584 Cameroon (UK/Cameroon relations) (Part 2) 1988 Apr 11 1994 Nov 18 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3198 Transport (Policy on roads: private finance for roads; traffic and parking in London) (Part 4) 1988 Aug 9 1989 Dec 15 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 380
PREM19/2342 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; draft White Paper) (Part 16) 1988 Nov 16 1988 Dec 16 2016 Nov 7 Secret 313

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