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
PREM19/1403 USA (Visit to UK by Donald Rumsfeld, President Reagan’s special Middle East envoy: meeting with Prime Minister) 1984 Jan 16 1984 Jan 20 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1067 Industrial policy (Versailles G7 Summit: Working Group on Technology) 1982 Jun 29 1983 Apr 18 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 177
PREM19/730 Education (Policy on education expenditure; role of HM Inspectorate of Schools; management of higher education; computers in schools) (Part 1) 1979 May 25 1981 Mar 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 304
PREM19/395 Broadcasting (Legislation on broadcasting; fourth TV channel; Welsh language broadcasting (threatened hunger strike by former Plaid Cymru MP Gwynfor Evans); renewal of BBC Charter) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 16 1981 Jun 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 172
PREM19/2309 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 10) 1988 Apr 7 1988 Jul 28 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3037 India (Visit to the UK by Ramaswamy Venkataraman, President of India, April 1990) 1990 Feb 1 1990 Apr 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2282 Japan (internal situation: economic reports; changes of Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 13 1986 Oct 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1664 Aerospace (British Aerospace (BAe): shares for employees) 1980 May 3 1986 Jul 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1323 Nationalised industries (Pay of Chairmen and Board members) (Part 2) 1981 Dec 4 1984 May 29 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/985 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 23) 1983 Jul 1 1983 Jul 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 286
PREM19/650 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 8) 1982 Jun 1 1982 Jun 6 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 53
PREM19/310 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; pay negotiations; contingency planning) (Part 5) 1980 Feb 15 1980 Mar 12 2010 Dec 30 Secret 226
PREM19/2203 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 23) 1987 Feb 2 1987 Jun 26 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2898 Aerospace (Radio equipment for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA): NATO air defence radar procurement) 1979 Nov 21 1990 Jul 20 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2073 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 12) 1986 Mar 14 1987 May 8 2016 Jul 21

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