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
PREM19/1747 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): reform of CAP; Green Pound; agricultural land and rural employment) (Part 14) 1986 Apr 17 1986 Nov 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/55 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 3) 1979 Oct 25 1979 Nov 30 2009 Dec 30 Secret 329
PREM19/1404 USA (UK/USA relations) (Part 2) 1982 May 10 1984 Feb 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1068 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 13) 1982 Nov 16 1983 Jul 25 2013 Aug 1 Secret 277
PREM19/731 Education (Policy on education expenditure; computers in schools; management of higher education; university grants) (Part 2) 1981 Mar 24 1982 Jun 7 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 287
PREM19/396 Cabinet (Questions of Procedure for Ministers: revision and reissue; disclosure of structure and details of Cabinet committees) 1979 May 4 1981 Sep 23 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 171
PREM19/2310 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 11) 1988 Aug 3 1988 Dec 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3038 Industrial Policy (Dispute between the National Graphical Association and the Stockport Messenger Group: print unions dispute at Wapping) 1983 Nov 26 1990 Feb 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2284 Japan (Anglo-Japanese relations) (Part 6) 1987 Jan 2 1987 Apr 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1665 Aerospace (Future and structure of British Airways: settlement of litigation concerning the collapse of Laker Airways; airports policy; USA/UK future aviation strategy; economic regulation of airports; competition regime for UK/US aviation) (Part 4) 1985 May 3 1986 Jan 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1324 Nationalised industries (Shipbuilding policy; prospects for British Shipbuilders) (Part 4) 1982 Jul 19 1983 Jun 27 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/986 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 24) 1983 Aug 1 1983 Oct 28 2013 Aug 1 Secret 320
PREM19/651 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 9) 1982 Jun 7 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret UK Eyes B 95
PREM19/311 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation (BSC); industrial action by steel unions; Lord Lever’s inquiry and recommendations for settlement accepted by BSC and Steel Union) (Part 6) 1980 Mar 12 1980 Jul 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 228
PREM19/2204 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 24) 1987 Jul 2 1987 Oct 30 2015 Dec 30

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