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
PREM19/2070 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: European Fighter Aircraft (EFA)) (Part 5) 1987 Jan 6 1988 Mar 31 2016 Jul 21 Secret UK Eyes A 409
PREM19/2726 Home Affairs (Sex discrimination) 1985 Aug 6 1989 Feb 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1844 Defence (Project Moonflower) 1986 Feb 3 1986 Dec 9 2016 Dec 30 Top Secret 14
PREM19/1166 Angola (Internal situation; appointment of Jose Eduardo dos Santos as President; UK/Angolan relations) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 12 1984 Mar 22 2014 Jan 3 Secret 291
PREM19/829 Local government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Green Paper on alternatives to domestic rates) (Part 1) 1979 May 25 1982 Jun 28 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 280
PREM19/153 Civil Service (Civil Service manpower: action to reduce size of Civil Service and staff costs) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 3 1980 Mar 5 2010 Dec 30 Secret 142
PREM19/493 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland (BL)) (Part 5) 1981 Jan 22 1981 Oct 31 2011 Dec 30 Secret 308
PREM19/2940 Drugs (Drugs) (Part 5) 1989 Dec 8 1990 Apr 17 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3624 Canada (Calls on the Prime Minister by the Premiers of Canadian Provinces) 1979 Aug 6 1992 Feb 7 2017 Dec 29 Secret 90
PREM19/1910 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Norway, September 1986: administrative arrangements) 1985 Sep 16 1986 Oct 13 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2577 Prime Minister (Personal correspondence with Princess Margaret) 1980 Jan 9 1980 Feb 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1765 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Helmut Kohl) (Part 15) 1983 Nov 11 1986 May 28 2015 Dec 30 Secret 276
PREM19/72 Industrial policy (Future of Rolls-Royce) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Nov 14 2009 Dec 30 Secret 97
PREM19/1422 Broadcasting (Television licence fees: finances of BBC; pay in the BBC; review of external services) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 6 1985 Mar 28 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 407
PREM19/1086 Local government (Southwark Council's blacklisting of contractors involved in work at Greenham Common: representation from Lord Harris of Greenwich) 1983 Feb 16 1983 Mar 24 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 9

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