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
PREM19/3626 China (Visits to the UK by Vice Premiers of China: meetings with Chinese Foreign Ministers) 1980 May 8 1992 Nov 17 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 185
PREM19/2954 Education (General policy on education) (Part 23) 1990 Jan 9 1990 Feb 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2108 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - Toronto: Prime Minister's Personal Representative for Economic Summits; briefing for second meeting of Personal Representatives ('Sherpas'), Quebec, February 1988) (Part 1) 1987 Oct 30 1988 Jan 28 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 297
PREM19/1607 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Tony Christopher of the Inland Revenue Staff Federation) 1984 Dec 19 1985 Jan 10 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/932 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail pay dispute; investigation into 'flexible rostering' by Railway Staff National Tribunal under Lord McCarthy; railway finances review by Sir David Serpell) (Part 3) 1982 Feb 10 1982 May 7 2012 Dec 28 Secret 340
PREM19/596 Social services (Rayner Study on arrangements for paying social security benefits) (Part 2) 1980 Oct 8 1981 May 12 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 76
PREM19/256 Housing (Housing policy; the Housing Bill; council house sales) (Part 1) 1979 May 22 1980 Jul 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 117
PREM19/2128 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 9) 1986 Nov 3 1987 Mar 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/4466 Trade (Overseas trade statistics) 1987 May 15 1993 Feb 25 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2764 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 13) 1989 Jun 1 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30 Secret 355
PREM19/1525 Home Affairs (Police and Criminal Procedure Bill: police complaints procedure; powers of entry; enforcement powers of revenue dePartments; collection of Value Added Tax (VAT); Crown Prosecution Service) (Part 2) 1982 Jan 5 1985 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 290
PREM19/1189 Defence (Correspondence from Professor R.V. Jones) 1982 Jun 14 1984 Sep 5 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/852 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy; gas legislation; industrial energy policy; wage negotiations) (Part 6) 1981 Oct 13 1982 Oct 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 449
PREM19/516 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 6) 1981 Sep 11 1981 Oct 30 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 108
PREM19/176 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 3) 1979 Mar 1 1980 May 12 2010 Dec 30 Secret 198

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