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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/588 Security (Sir Peter Hayman: allegations against former public official of unnatural sexual proclivities; security aspects) 1980 Oct 27 1981 Mar 20 2015 Jan 30 Secret 38
PREM19/248 Government Machinery (Special advisers; appointment procedure; pay) (Part 1) 1979 Apr 27 1980 May 2 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 235
PREM19/2626 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 42) 1989 May 25 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2112 Economic Policy (Pay Review Body reports: top salaries, armed forces, doctors and dentists, nurses, midwives and professions allied to medicine) (Part 9) 1986 Oct 27 1988 May 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2752 Japan (Prime Minister's visit to Japan, September 1989) (Part 3b) 1989 Sep 18 1989 Nov 10 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1874 Nationalised Industries (Organisation of electricity supply industry: private electricity generation) 1979 Jul 18 1986 Aug 6 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1517 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste) (Part 18) 1985 May 7 1985 Jul 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 500
PREM19/1181 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, New Delhi, November 1983: administrative arrangements) (Part 1) 1982 Jun 18 1983 Nov 15 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 210
PREM19/844 Ministers (Ministerial travel overseas: general policy) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 191
PREM19/508 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach (Charles Haughey, Garret Fitzgerald); Anglo-Irish joint studies) (Part 4) 1981 Mar 11 1981 Oct 20 2011 Dec 30 Secret 328
PREM19/168 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 11) 1980 Oct 22 1980 Nov 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 137
PREM19/2440 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Rhodes, December 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Nov 23 1988 Dec 5 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/1932 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base; the science budget; the Engineer and Technology Programme; increase in graduate engineers and technologists; review of involvement in European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN)) (Part 4) 1985 Jul 2 1986 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2622 Disasters (Railway accident at Clapham Junction, 12 December 1988) 1988 Dec 12 1989 Nov 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1780 Government Machinery (Non-dePartmental public bodies (quangos): a Guide for Departments; review programme) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 2 1986 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30

Pages