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 classification Pagessort descending
PREM19/3098 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 18) 1990 Jan 2 1990 Apr 6 2016 Dec 30 6 Secret 259
PREM19/1214 Education (Secondary school education; management of local authority higher education; reform of Schools Council; raising standards in education; education in Liverpool; Green Paper on school government) (Part 2) 1982 Mar 24 1984 May 24 2014 Jan 3 Secret 259
PREM19/3226 Cabinet (Attendance at Cabinet meetings: invitees and absences) (Part 5) 1987 Jun 18 1991 Jul 19 2017 Jul 20 1 Confidential 259
PREM19/1411 Aerospace (European Airbus A320 project: UK participation in European Transonic Windtunnel project) (Part 1) 1982 Mar 30 1985 Jun 24 2014 Dec 30 Secret 259
PREM19/225 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 7) 1980 Mar 19 1980 Apr 28 2010 Dec 30 1 Secret 259
PREM19/3610 Arts and Amenities (Policy towards the arts: private sponsorship of the arts) (Part 4) 1990 May 1 1992 Dec 22 2017 Dec 29 1 Confidential 259
PREM19/853 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 5) 1981 Dec 1 1982 Feb 10 2012 Dec 28 Secret 259
PREM19/3294 Education (General policy on education) (Part 27) 1990 Nov 13 1991 Mar 28 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 259
PREM19/3607 Agriculture (Retail and wholesale milk prices: milk marketing arrangements​​​​​​​) (Part 3) 1984 Jul 30 1992 Jul 27 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 259
PREM19/1514 Government Machinery (Advisory Council on Applied Research and Development (ACARD)) (Part 3) 1982 Jan 18 1985 Oct 7 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 259
PREM19/477 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Rayner Scrutiny Programme) (Part 7) 1980 Nov 26 1981 Feb 2 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 260
PREM19/233 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1980 Jan 31 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 260
PREM19/3099 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 19) 1990 May 1 1990 Nov 15 2016 Dec 30 8 Secret 260
PREM19/626 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 15) 1982 May 8 1982 May 10 2012 Dec 28 Secret 260
PREM19/2432 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Poland, November 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Feb 1 1988 Nov 6 2016 Jul 21 12 Confidential 260

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