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
PREM19/1220 European policy (Presidency of European Commission; UK Commissioners; official posts in Commission) (Part 2) 1984 Mar 14 1984 Dec 31 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 380
PREM19/2196 Government Machinery (Propriety of Ministers arranging briefing for Conservative backbenchers) 1979 Dec 5 1988 Nov 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2832 Royal Family (Ownership of the Royal Palaces: Historic Royal Palaces Agency) 1987 Nov 26 1989 Dec 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/20 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 3) 1979 Jul 17 1979 Aug 29 2009 Dec 30 Secret 139
PREM19/2016 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 41) 1986 Jun 26 1987 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/701 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 7) 1982 Jan 30 1982 Apr 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 189
PREM19/1475 Energy (Cross Channel electricity link) 1980 Jul 15 1985 Jun 17 2014 Dec 30 Secret 55
PREM19/2564 United Nations (World Conference of the United Nations Decade for Women, Copenhagen, July 1980: ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)) 1980 Jul 8 1987 Jul 28 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/365 Social Services (Rayner study on arrangements for paying social security benefits) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 22 1980 Sep 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 282
PREM19/1140 Soviet Union (Representations from Commander Anthony Courtney, former Conservative MP, about Soviet espionage activity in UK) 1980 Jan 8 1982 Dec 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 30
PREM19/2044 Civil Service (Property Services Agency (PSA) restructuring) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 3 1988 Feb 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2677 Food (Food safety) (Part 1) 1989 Jan 30 1989 Mar 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1815 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 21) 1986 Jul 2 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/957 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (chaired by Lord Franks): documentation used by Prime Minister in preparation for 25-26 January 1983 debate in House of Commons on Committee's report) 1983 Jan 14 1983 Jan 26 2013 Aug 1 Secret 140
PREM19/1396 Tonga (Visits to UK by King and Queen of Tonga, December 1979 and October 1983) 1979 Nov 20 1984 Mar 5 2014 Jan 3

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