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 Endssort descending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/395 Broadcasting (Legislation on broadcasting; fourth TV channel; Welsh language broadcasting (threatened hunger strike by former Plaid Cymru MP Gwynfor Evans); renewal of BBC Charter) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 16 1981 Jun 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 172
PREM19/604 Vietnam (Vietnamese refugees; resettlement in the UK) (Part 3) 1979 Jul 17 1981 Feb 28 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 244
PREM19/2398 Prime Minister (Submission of papers to the Prime Minister prior to trips abroad and recesses) 1979 Jul 17 1986 Jul 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/982 Economic policy (Abolition of Economic Planning Councils) 1979 Jul 17 1979 Jul 25 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 45
PREM19/20 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 3) 1979 Jul 17 1979 Aug 29 2009 Dec 30 Secret 139
PREM19/1874 Nationalised Industries (Organisation of electricity supply industry: private electricity generation) 1979 Jul 18 1986 Aug 6 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/769 Gibraltar (Policy) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 19 1982 Jan 20 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 162
PREM19/1202 Economic policy (Review of policy on film finance; taxation of film industry; films policy review) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 19 1984 Dec 13 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 247
PREM19/1078 Legal procedure (Contempt of Court Bill; traducing of third parties in judicial proceedings) 1979 Jul 19 1983 Nov 21 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 24
PREM19/181 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; possible industrial disputes; the pay round) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 19 1980 Jun 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 164
PREM19/246 Government Machinery (Future of Directorate of Overseas Surveys and Centre for Overseas Pest Research) 1979 Jul 19 1980 Feb 8 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 14
PREM19/1689 Defence (Development of torpedoes) 1979 Jul 20 1986 Dec 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/964 Civil service (Manpower reductions in the Cabinet Office) 1979 Jul 20 1983 May 9 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 59
PREM19/1791 Home Affairs (Disposal of nuclear waste) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 20 1986 Jan 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1017 Energy (Future offshore petroleum licensing; seventh and eighth licensing rounds) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 20 1983 Sep 15 2013 Aug 1 Secret 197

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