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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1450 Drugs (Drug misuse: prevention; proposed legislation) (Part 1) 1982 Nov 19 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 252
PREM19/1114 Regional policy (Urban Development Corporations; regeneration of Liverpool and London Docklands; Medway Towns; inner city policy and problems) (Part 3) 1981 Nov 19 1983 Aug 9 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 248
PREM19/777 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; financial management in the Ministry of Defence; the Scrutiny Programme) (Part 10) 1981 Sep 17 1982 Feb 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 232
PREM19/442 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; arbitration arrangements; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 3) 1980 Oct 31 1981 Mar 11 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 186
PREM19/2364 NATO (NATO Summits) (Part 2) 1987 Jul 30 1988 Nov 14 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3199 Turkey (Prime Minister's visit to Turkey to attend the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign, April 1990) (Part 2) 1990 Feb 28 1990 Aug 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2499 Security (RAF fixed telecommunications system) 1988 Mar 29 1988 Jul 21 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1713 Economic policy (Private direct investment overseas: British representation at United States conference on private sector initiatives) 1984 Jan 19 1986 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 132
PREM19/1370 Science and technology (Prime Minister’s seminar on science, technology, and industry, September 1983) (Part 1) 1982 Dec 22 1984 Feb 2 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1034 France (Franco-British Council; visit of Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy in May 1982; meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Feb 17 1983 Mar 29 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 226
PREM19/144 Civil Service (Pay and Pensions: reports by Government Actuary’s Department and Civil Service Pay Research Unit) 1979 May 17 1980 May 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 144
PREM19/697 Economic policy (International banking system) (Part 1) 1982 Aug 2 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 221
PREM19/357 Security (Review of adequacy of leaks procedure) 1980 Jan 4 1980 Aug 4 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 57
PREM19/2257 Industrial Policy (Future of the Rover Group) (Part 15) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2978 European Policy (Proposal for a Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Mediterranean) 1990 Oct 8 1990 Oct 19 2016 Dec 30

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