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 Beginssort descending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2076 Downing Street (Organisation and function of the Prime Minister's Policy Unit: access to papers by members of the Policy Unit; relations with the Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS)) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1987 Feb 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1089 National health (Waste in the National Health Service (NHS); priorities and policies for health and personal social services) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1983 Mar 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 282
PREM19/898 Royal family (Prime Minister's Audiences with the Queen) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1982 Feb 9 2013 Dec 6 147 Unclassified 105
PREM19/94 Ministers (Propriety of appointing Minister likely to become MEP) 1979 May 8 1979 May 16 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 12
PREM19/1523 Home Affairs (Open Government: disclosure of official information) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1985 Oct 16 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 256
PREM19/1508 Government Machinery (Allocation of Ministerial responsibilities) 1979 May 8 1985 Oct 15 2014 Dec 30 Secret 123
PREM19/1557 Kenya (State Visit to UK by President Daniel arup Moi, June 1979, and private visit, February 1980: meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 May 8 1985 Jun 4 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/692 Defence (Armed forces' pay; service medical and dental officers' pay) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1982 Feb 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 244
PREM19/2197 Government Machinery (Reduction in number of circulars from government departments to local authorities) 1979 May 8 1987 Jul 6 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/50 European policy (Agriculture) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1979 Oct 26 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 230
PREM19/18 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1979 May 31 2009 Dec 30 Secret 169
PREM19/291 Local Government (Waste in local authority expenditure) 1979 May 8 1980 May 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 248
PREM19/322 Parliament (House of Commons procedure; reorganization of Select Committees; Departmental Select Committees) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1980 Jan 28 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 189
PREM19/120 Security (Security of the Secret Services - Anthony Blunt) 1979 May 8 1979 Nov 23 Temporarily Retained by Department Unknown
PREM19/5 Civil Service (Manpower Freeze) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1979 May 28 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 189

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