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 Beginssort ascending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/38 Economic policy (Proposed Council of Economic Advisers) Begins: 1979 May 30 Ends: 1979 Sep 10 Date of release: 2009 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 44
PREM19/3625 China (Calls on the Prime Minister by the Chinese Ambassador) Begins: 1979 May 30 Ends: 1992 Mar 31 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 Any docs withheld? 3 File classification: Secret Pages: 161
PREM19/1005 Economic policy (Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1976: exemption of Stock Exchange) Begins: 1979 May 30 Ends: 1983 Nov 30 Date of release: 2013 Aug 1 File classification: Confidential Pages: 190
PREM19/480 Government machinery (Internal audit & financial control in government) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 May 30 Ends: 1981 Aug 12 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 331
PREM19/2597 China (Internal situation in China) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 May 30 Ends: 1989 Jul 21 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/266 Industrial policy (Prime Minister’s meetings with Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on economic strategy) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 May 29 Ends: 1980 Sep 15 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 235
PREM19/482 Government machinery (Reactivation of Civil Contingencies Unit in Cabinet Office: review of contingency planning; proposed Central Press Unit; use of TAVR during industrial disputes) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 May 29 Ends: 1981 Mar 2 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 70
PREM19/451 Egypt (Visits to UK by Vice President Mubarak in June 1979, May 1980 and September 1980: calls on the Prime Minister) Begins: 1979 May 29 Ends: 1980 Sep 8 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 156
PREM19/48 Energy (Nuclear power plant industry Begins: 1979 May 29 Ends: 1979 Aug 14 Date of release: 2009 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 114
PREM19/123 South Korea (Call on MT by South Korean Presidential envoy) Begins: 1979 May 28 Ends: 1979 Jun 28 Date of release: 2009 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 26
PREM19/47 Energy (Nuclear power safety - Schmidt letter) Begins: 1979 May 28 Ends: 1979 Jun 29 Date of release: 2009 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 28
PREM19/394 Broadcasting (BBC External Services) Begins: 1979 May 25 Ends: 1981 Oct 22 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 203
PREM19/730 Education (Policy on education expenditure; role of HM Inspectorate of Schools; management of higher education; computers in schools) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 May 25 Ends: 1981 Mar 30 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Confidential Pages: 304
PREM19/829 Local government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Green Paper on alternatives to domestic rates) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 May 25 Ends: 1982 Jun 28 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Confidential Pages: 280
PREM19/3970 United Nations (International Year of the Child 1979: World Summit for Children, September 1990) Begins: 1979 May 25 Ends: 1992 Feb 14 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Confidential Pages: 185

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