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
PREM19/549 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; British Steel Corporation (BSC) corporate plan; overlap between BSC and private sector; rationalisation of the UK engineering steel making facilities) (Part 9) 1981 Feb 17 1981 Apr 6 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 245
PREM19/1219 European policy (Presidency of European Commission; UK Commissioners; official posts in Commission; European Secretariat in Cabinet Office) (Part 1) 1980 May 29 1984 Feb 6 2014 Jan 3 Secret 287
PREM19/1984 Trade (Commodity policy: International Tin Agreement and International Tin Council; implications of difficulties in tin market for Cornish tin mines) (Part 1) 1985 Jan 29 1986 Jan 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2663 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 42) 1989 Jun 1 1989 Sep 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/102 Prime Minister (Meeting with Cardinal Hume, Northern Ireland May 1979) 1979 May 7 1979 May 29 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 34
PREM19/2579 Economic Policy (Inquiry into Barlow Clowes Group) 1988 Jun 13 1988 Sep 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1766 Gibraltar (Policy towards Gibraltar: discussions with Spanish under Lisbon and Brussels Agreements) (Part 5) 1984 Apr 6 1986 Oct 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/443 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; arbitration arrangements; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 4) 1981 Mar 16 1981 Aug 6 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 197
PREM19/806 Industrial policy (Industrial action in the ports; future of Port of London Authority (PLA) and Mersey Docks and Harbour Company (MDHC)) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 18 1982 May 5 2012 Dec 28 Secret 124
PREM19/1139 South Africa (Prime Minister's talk with Tiny Rowland, Chief Executive of Lonrho, about Namibia and Angola) 1982 Jan 29 1982 Feb 25 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/2379 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 17) 1987 Nov 9 1988 Sep 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/22 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 5) 1979 Oct 1 1979 Oct 23 2009 Dec 30 Secret 122
PREM19/372 Soviet Union (Political and propaganda use made by USSR of Moscow Olympic Games) 1980 Apr 22 1980 Apr 26 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2397 Prime Minister (Request by Electronic Data Systems to employ Mark Thatcher) 1987 Feb 1 1987 Feb 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1686 Civil Service (Property Services Agency (PSA) restructuring: report by Sir Geoffrey Wardale on fraud in the PSA) (Part 1) 1982 Jul 22 1986 Aug 5 2014 Dec 30

Pages