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
PREM19/88 Italy (MT’s visits to Italy; Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 20 1979 Oct 8 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 101
PREM19/1437 Defence (Proposal by Julian Amery MP to revive the Special Operations Executive (SOE): history of SOE in the Far East, Greece and Scandinavia) 1980 Apr 3 1985 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 Secret 48
PREM19/1101 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Stanley Thorne MP about job losses at Preston factory of Rockwell Graphic Systems Ltd) 1983 Apr 20 1983 May 13 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 15
PREM19/764 Germany (Chancellor Schmidt's visit to the UK, March 1982: meetings with the Prime Minister) (Parts 4 & 5) 1982 Mar 1 1982 May 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 242
PREM19/429 Economic policy (Meetings of National Economic Development Council (NEDC); ministerial membership; Prime Minister's attendance) (Part 2) 1979 Dec 14 1981 Dec 29 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 187
PREM19/2349 National Health (Seminars on health and social security matters: Social Security Reviews) (Part 2) 1984 Jul 6 1988 Feb 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3158 Scotland (Regional policy: industrial policy; Scottish Enterprise) (Part 2) 1988 Dec 1 1990 Nov 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2486 Security (Correspondence with Anthony Steven Divall) 1988 May 31 1988 Oct 4 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1700 Downing Street (Libel action by Richard Holt MP against The Teacher magazine: risk that No. 10 staff may be called to give evidence) 1986 Mar 17 1986 May 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/8 Civil Service (Stock Criticisms) 1979 Dec 31 1979 Dec 31 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 15
PREM19/1357 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Group of Eight, representing the construction industry, October 1982; pressure for greater financial assistance from government; complaint about local authority capital underspend) 1982 Jul 22 1983 Nov 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1019 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 11) 1983 Feb 9 1983 Nov 30 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 265
PREM19/684 Defence (Special project) 1980 May 9 1982 Nov 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/343 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 13) 1980 Jan 12 1980 Jan 24 2010 Dec 30 Secret 258
PREM19/2244 Industrial Policy (Possible sale by the Laird Group of Metro-Cammell) 1985 Sep 26 1986 Apr 18 2016 Jul 21

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