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
PREM19/1173 Cabinet (Cabinet collective responsibility) 1979 May 7 1984 Nov 12 2014 Jan 3 Restricted 20
PREM19/2208 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 28) 1988 Aug 5 1988 Nov 29 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/836 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 14) 1982 Oct 18 1982 Dec 31 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 217
PREM19/2904 Agriculture (Salmonella and eggs) (Part 1) 1988 Dec 8 1990 Feb 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/500 Ireland (Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland) (Part 2) 1981 Feb 5 1981 Jul 21 2011 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/2079 Economic Policy (Budget) (Part 16) 1986 May 12 1987 Sep 4 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1585 Nationalised Industries (Nationalised industry legislation: investment and financing review; privatisation; report on state monopolies) (Part 9) 1984 May 29 1985 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 395
PREM19/102 Prime Minister (Meeting with Cardinal Hume, Northern Ireland May 1979) 1979 May 7 1979 May 29 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 34
PREM19/2590 Austria (Visits to the UK by Austrian Foreign Ministers: Erwin Lanc (November 1983) and Alois Mock (December 1989)) 1983 Sep 2 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2070 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: European Fighter Aircraft (EFA)) (Part 5) 1987 Jan 6 1988 Mar 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2727 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 20) 1987 Oct 2 1989 Feb 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1846 Defence (Policing of demonstrations at military bases: activities of anti-nuclear demonstrators) (Part 1) 1983 Feb 17 1986 Mar 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1093 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity industries; report by Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) on electricity prices for industry; gas appliance retailing; Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) report on efficiency in Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB)) (Part 7) 1982 Oct 14 1983 Mar 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 265
PREM19/1504 Foreign Policy (Strategy on foreign policy and defence issues: Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) resources) (Part 2) 1984 Jan 9 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 281
PREM19/756 Foreign policy (Relations with Allies) 1980 Jul 9 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 67

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