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
PREM19/1151 USA (Visit to UK by Kenneth Dam, US Deputy Secretary of State; discussion of US/UK relations and foreign policy issues) 1983 Nov 3 1983 Nov 7 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 74
PREM19/335 Prime Minister (Visits to government departments and regional visits) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 27 1980 Jan 11 2010 Dec 30 Secret 240
PREM19/682 Commonwealth (Heads of Government meeting in Melbourne, September-October 1981: records of meetings; Melbourne Declaration; communique) (Part 4) 1981 Sep 15 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 247
PREM19/1025 European policy (European Council meeting, Athens, December 1983) (Part 13) 1982 Oct 15 1983 Dec 8 2013 Aug 1 2 Secret 181
PREM19/2390 Posts and Telecommunications (Pay negotiations in the Post Office and British Telecom (BT): industrial action) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 3 1987 Aug 14 2016 Jul 21 Secret 249
PREM19/3058 Italy (Visits of the Italian Prime Minister: visits of the Italian President) (Part 3) 1986 Oct 3 1990 Oct 20 2017 Jul 20 6 Secret 316
PREM19/2087 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 19) 1988 Jul 1 1988 Oct 28 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 383
PREM19/213 Defence (Arms control) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 18 1979 Aug 24 2010 Dec 30 2 Secret 231
PREM19/559 Poland (Internal situation; economic assistance to Poland) (Part 2) 1980 Dec 1 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/2233 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 7) 1987 Feb 2 1987 Mar 20 2016 Jul 21 Secret 255
PREM19/1460 Economic policy (Policy towards privatisation: disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions) (Part 12 1984 Apr 4 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 387
PREM19/1809 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach) (Part 12) 1985 Nov 15 1985 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21 Secret 628
PREM19/1335 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 14) 1984 Oct 20 1984 Nov 20 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 333
PREM19/3156 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget) (Part 11) 1990 Apr 2 1990 Dec 28 2016 Dec 30 Secret 212
PREM19/2353 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: British Gas privatisation; privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 13) 1986 Oct 2 1987 Oct 2 2016 Jul 21 Secret 222

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