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
PREM19/1111 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Dr David Clark MP about factory closures and unemployment in his South Shields constituency) 1981 Jul 14 1983 Jan 24 2013 Aug 1
PREM19/774 Government machinery (Select Committee proposal for new Ministry for the arts, heritage and tourism) 1982 Dec 3 1982 Dec 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 6
PREM19/439 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 5) 1981 Feb 18 1981 Jul 10 2011 Dec 30 Secret 227
PREM19/2361 Nationalised Industries (Steel Industry: British Steel Corporation (BSC) privatisation) (Part 14) 1985 Sep 3 1987 Sep 25 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3191 Trade (UK's international trade policies: analysis of UK imports; General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Uruguay Round) (Part 7) 1989 Oct 6 1990 Nov 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2496 Security (Miscellaneous leaks and security breaches) (Part 2) 1987 Jul 2 1988 Dec 22 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1710 Economic policy (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor of the Exchequer: briefing notes) (Part 1) 1983 Oct 4 1986 Oct 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 180
PREM19/18 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1979 May 31 2009 Dec 30 Secret 169
PREM19/1367 Royal family (Relations between the media and members of the Royal Family; possible legal measures to prevent harassment) 1984 Jan 3 1984 Jan 18 Retained Retained
PREM19/1031 European policy (Enlargement of European Community (EC): accession of Greece; pre-accession aid to Portugal; Spanish accession; EC attitude to Turkey) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1983 Mar 10 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 168
PREM19/694 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 4) 1981 Nov 17 1982 Feb 26 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 154
PREM19/353 Rhodesia (Constitutional Conference, Lancaster House, London, Sept-Dec 1979: Report) 1979 Dec 21 1979 Dec 21 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 168
PREM19/2254 Industrial Policy (Research and development) (Part 5) 1987 Aug 3 1988 Dec 15 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2975 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 45) 1990 Mar 2 1990 Apr 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2146 European Policy (Presidency of European Commission (reappointment of Jacques Delors): UK Commissioners (appointment and meetings with Prime Minister); David Williamson to succeed Emile Noel as Secretary-General; UK representation in official posts in Commission) (Part 3) 1984 Jan 2 1988 Jul 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4

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