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 Titlesort ascending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/2259 Industrial Policy (Future of Rolls-Royce) (Part 4) 1987 Jul 10 1988 Dec 12 2016 Jul 21 Confidential and Commercial in Confidence 33
PREM19/2258 Industrial Policy (Future of Rolls-Royce) (Part 3) 1984 Apr 2 1987 May 7 2016 Jul 21 1 Confidential and Commercial in Confidence 152
PREM19/1279 Industrial policy (Future of Rolls-Royce) (Part 2) 1979 Nov 13 1984 Mar 27 2014 Jan 3 Secret 288
PREM19/1538 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland: privatisation of UniPart; collaboration with Honda) (Part 9) 1984 Apr 1 1985 Jul 7 2014 Dec 30 Secret 219
PREM19/1537 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland: privatisation of UniPart) (Part 8) 1984 Apr 2 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 308
PREM19/1803 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland/Rover Group) (Part 12) 1986 May 1 1986 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 1 Secret and Personal 294
PREM19/1802 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland) (Part 11) 1986 May 1 1986 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 Secret 239
PREM19/1801 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland) (Part 10) 1985 Sep 3 1986 Mar 7 2014 Dec 30 Secret 294
PREM19/1063 Industrial policy (Future of Times newspapers: sale by Thomson Organisation; purchase by Rupert Murdoch's News International) 1979 Oct 16 1983 Jul 18 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 111
PREM19/4239 Industrial Policy (Ford productivity and government assistance: pay disputes at Ford; Prime Minister's meetings with Ford Chairmen and Presidents) 1980 Oct 13 1993 Jun 8 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1064 Industrial policy (Companies Bill; purchase by a company of its own shares; wider share ownership) 1979 Oct 18 1983 May 26 2013 Aug 1 3 Confidential 176
PREM19/3804 Industrial Policy (British Technology Group (BTG): compendium; privatisation) (Part 3) 1989 Feb 1 1992 Mar 10 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 129
PREM19/1282 Industrial policy (Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development (ACARD) report on new opportunities in manufacturing) 1984 Jul 24 1984 Sep 28 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 48
PREM19/1275 Industrial policy (Abolition of government control over port development) 1984 Feb 29 1984 Apr 26 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 41
PREM19/4243 Indonesia (Visits by Dr Habibie, Indonesian Minister for Research and Technology) 1983 Jun 15 1993 Jun 28 2018 Jul 24

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