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
PREM19/2361 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
PREM19/2231 Hong Kong (Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC)) 1985 Aug 28 1987 Jul 21 Retained Closed for 40 years
PREM19/1646 Soviet Union (Prime Minister's visits to Moscow for the funerals of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko in February 1984 and March 1985 respectively) 1984 Feb 13 1985 Mar 15 2014 Dec 30 Secret 295
PREM19/679 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy) (Part 9) 1981 Sep 28 1982 May 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 226
PREM19/1254 Government machinery (Social Security Commissioners: transfer of responsibility from Secretary of State for Social Services to Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Scotland) 1984 Oct 11 1984 Oct 23 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/338 Prime Minister (Meeting with Sir Horace Cutler to discuss Greater London Council (GLC) matters, December 1979) 1979 Oct 31 1980 Mar 18 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 63
PREM19/919 Security (Security at Chequers; reports on break-in (September 1966); mishandled mail (December 1972); Territorial Army exercise (June 1973); low-flying over Chequers (February 1974)) 1966 Oct 7 1982 Oct 18 2012 Dec 28 Secret 23
PREM19/1618 Royal Family (Broadlands Archives: transfer to Southampton University of papers of Lord Mountbatten) 1985 Jul 8 1985 Sep 24 2014 Dec 30
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
PREM19/1561 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 27) 1985 Jun 3 1985 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 380
PREM19/1176 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; Civil Service manpower; senior management programme; financial management in government departments; unified grading) (Part 16) 1984 Jul 2 1984 Nov 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 425
PREM19/599 Transport (Railway policy: rail fares; reference of London commuter services to Monopolies and Mergers Commission; British Rail finances; services to Gatwick airport; pay negotiations; industrial action by National Union of Railwaymen) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 24 1981 Aug 3 2011 Dec 30 Secret 177
PREM19/2812 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Madrid for European Council meeting, June 1989: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jun 21 1989 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30

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