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
PREM19/1936 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's meeting with industrialists and leading academics, February 1985; the Engineering and Technology Programme) 1985 Oct 28 1986 Mar 7 2016 Feb 19
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
PREM19/2628 Economic Policy (The 1989 Budget) (Part 18) 1988 Apr 5 1989 Nov 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1784 Home Affairs (Prime Minister's seminar on crime prevention, January 1986) (Part 1) 1985 Aug 8 1986 Mar 20 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/656 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (Franks): documentation seen by PM, extracted from PREM19 files and copied to the Committee) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 20 1981 Dec 21 2012 Dec 28 Secret 131
PREM19/316 New Hebrides (Independence; security situation; disturbances on Santo and Tanna; Anglo/French consultations) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 31 1980 Jul 17 2010 Dec 30 Secret 153
PREM19/1673 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing - defence after repossession) (Part 14) 1984 Feb 21 1986 Jun 26 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2353 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: British Gas privatisation; privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 13) 1986 Oct 2 1987 Oct 2 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3181 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations: internal situation; Lithuanian declaration of independence) (Part 15) 1990 Feb 1 1990 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1288 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 17B) 1984 Oct 6 1984 Oct 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2490 Security (Intelligence Co-ordinator in the Cabinet Office: proposed appointment of the Sir Anthony Duff and his successors) 1980 Jun 18 1988 Oct 17 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1704 Economic policy (Policy towards privatisation: disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions; flotation of Royal Ordnance PLC; Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) picketing at DHSS Huyton Local Office over privatised cleaning contract) (Part 14) 1986 Jul 9 1986 Oct 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/576 Regional policy (Creation of Enterprise Zones; possible measures to assist Merseyside; Central Policy Review Staff report) (Part 3) 1980 Jul 4 1981 Jun 29 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 309
PREM19/236 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister’s visit to Greece and Yugoslavia, September 1980: policy) 1980 Aug 27 1980 Oct 6 2010 Dec 30 Secret 225

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