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
PREM19/1448 Disasters (Bradford City Football Club fire: Prime Minister's visit to Bradford, May 1985) 1985 May 12 1985 May 22 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 42
PREM19/145 Civil Service (Proposal to close Public Record Office research room in Chancery Lane) 1980 Feb 14 1980 Apr 22 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 23
PREM19/485 Home affairs (Powers of entry: review by David Mitchell, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at Department of Industry; enforcement powers of Revenue Departments; European Commission powers of entry) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 23 1981 Sep 25 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 244
PREM19/2362 Nationalised Industries (Steel Industry: British Steel Corporation (BSC) privatisation) (Part 15) 1987 Oct 1 1988 Nov 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3192 Transport (British Rail: possible line closures; public transport disputes; proposed restructuring of British Rail) (Part 10) 1988 Oct 5 1990 Jan 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2497 Security (Correspondence with Members of Parliament) 1988 Apr 12 1988 Apr 22 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1711 Economic policy (Competition Policy) (Part 1) 1983 Dec 16 1986 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 182
PREM19/1086 Local government (Southwark Council's blacklisting of contractors involved in work at Greenham Common: representation from Lord Harris of Greenwich) 1983 Feb 16 1983 Mar 24 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 9
PREM19/1368 Royal family (Princess Margaret's proposed visit to China for Royal Ballet performance; Duke of Edinburgh's visit to China as President of World Wildlife Fund (WWF)) 1982 Aug 5 1984 Jan 30 2014 Nov 28
PREM19/749 European policy (European Council meeting in Brussels, March 1982) (Part 10) 1982 Feb 22 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 314
PREM19/64 Government machinery (Judges' expenses) 1979 Oct 19 1979 Oct 30 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 10
PREM19/405 Civil service (Cynon Valley Borough Council dispute with Welsh Office over allocation of funds for highway maintenance) 1981 Feb 9 1981 Jun 10 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 24
PREM19/2255 Industrial Policy (Future of the Rover Group) (Part 13) 1987 Jan 5 1987 Sep 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2976 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 46) 1990 May 1 1990 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2149 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 17) 1987 Apr 3 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21

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