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 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.

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.

 

Link to full file File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/881 Prime Minister (Meetings with James Craigen MP to discuss closure of Bryant and May and Metal Box factories in Glasgow) 1981 Feb 27 1982 Dec 15 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 49
PREM19/94 Ministers (Propriety of appointing Minister likely to become MEP) 1979 May 8 1979 May 16 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 12
PREM19/315 Nationalised Industries (Correspondence with Alan Newman Ltd about contract for conversion of liner into floating hotel: negative response from Harland and Wolff and British Shipbuilders) 1980 Jul 2 1980 Aug 4 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 14
PREM19/662 Broadcasting (Study of impact of television on schoolchildren) 1982 Jan 8 1982 Dec 13 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 100
PREM19/727 Economic policy (Taxation of widows and single women aged 60-64: exchanges with Jeff Rooker MP) 1981 Mar 26 1981 Jun 22 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 35
PREM19/914 Security (Concern over leakages of official information to journalists Peter Hennessy and Peter Stothard) 1981 Jun 1 1981 Jun 5 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 7
PREM19/663 Broadcasting (BBC TV programme about handling of information by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and media during the Falklands crisis; Prime Minister’s directive that no Ministers or officials should take part) 1982 Aug 6 1982 Aug 9 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 4
PREM19/66 Home affairs (Sale of Isle of Iona) 1979 May 21 1979 Jun 7 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 12
PREM19/883 Prime Minister (Meetings with Robert Kilroy-Silk MP to discuss closures of factories in his Ormskirk constituency) 1981 Mar 5 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 36
PREM19/253 Home Affairs (Increase in incidence of leukaemia in Lancashire; correspondence with Stan Thorne MP) 1979 Oct 4 1980 Feb 25 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 69
PREM19/884 Prime Minister (Meetings with Geoffrey Robinson MP to discuss redundancies in Jaguar factories in Coventry) 1981 Jun 1 1982 Jan 21 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 28
PREM19/1041 Government machinery (Publicity for open structure appointments) 1983 Oct 4 1983 Oct 20 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 5
PREM19/36 Economic policy (Invisibles in trade figures) 1979 Sep 6 1979 Oct 26 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 67
PREM19/192 Economic policy (Demonetisation of old sixpence) 1980 Jan 25 1980 Jan 28 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 6
PREM19/915 Security (Fire precautions at Chequers; fire in telecommunications room, September 1982) 1978 Feb 23 1982 Sep 20 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 59

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