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 releasesort ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/229 European Policy (EEC food exports to Soviet Union; sales of subsidised butter) Begins: 1979 Sep 3 Ends: 1980 Jul 30 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 80
PREM19/322 Parliament (House of Commons procedure; reorganization of Select Committees; Departmental Select Committees) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 May 8 Ends: 1980 Jan 28 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 189
PREM19/197 Economic policy (Seminar with academic economists, 13 July 1980) Begins: 1980 May 9 Ends: 1980 Jul 15 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 34
PREM19/290 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 3) Begins: 1980 Feb 28 Ends: 1980 Sep 27 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 205
PREM19/165 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 8) Begins: 1980 Jan 29 Ends: 1980 Feb 29 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 176
PREM19/258 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland (BL)) (Part 2) Begins: 1979 Dec 14 Ends: 1980 Mar 10 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 161
PREM19/135 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 2) Begins: 1980 Jan 6 Ends: 1980 Jan 20 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 317
PREM19/351 Rhodesia (Constitutional Conference, Lancaster House, London, Sept-Dec 1979: proceedings & conference papers, CC (79) 80-105) Begins: 1979 Nov 19 Ends: 1979 Dec 13 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Restricted Pages: 235
PREM19/230 European Policy (Designation of European Community) Begins: 1980 Jan 4 Ends: 1980 Feb 7 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Restricted Pages: 6
PREM19/323 Parliament (House of Commons procedure; reorganization of Select Committees; Departmental Select Committees; provision of evidence to Select Committees) (Part 2) Begins: 1980 Feb 1 Ends: 1980 Mar 13 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 240
PREM19/198 Education (Future of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA)) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Jul 4 Ends: 1980 Jun 20 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 131
PREM19/291 Local Government (Waste in local authority expenditure) Begins: 1979 May 8 Ends: 1980 May 9 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 248
PREM19/166 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 9) Begins: 1980 Mar 3 Ends: 1980 Jul 2 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 184
PREM19/259 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland (BL)) Part 3 Begins: 1980 Mar 11 Ends: 1980 Apr 17 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 245
PREM19/136 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 3) Begins: 1980 Jan 21 Ends: 1980 Feb 28 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 257

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