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
PREM19/36 Economic policy (Invisibles in trade figures) 1979 Sep 6 1979 Oct 26 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 67
PREM19/1679 Cabinet (Cabinet Committee structure and membership) (Part 2) 1982 Oct 6 1986 Jan 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/377 Sport (Sporting relations with South Africa) 1979 Aug 30 1980 Feb 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 173
PREM19/1336 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 11) 1983 Jul 1 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/998 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 10) 1982 Feb 1 1983 Oct 10 2013 Aug 1 Secret 272
PREM19/663 Broadcasting (BBC TV programme about handling of information by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and media during the Falklands crisis; Prime Minister’s directive that no Ministers or officials should take part) 1982 Aug 6 1982 Aug 9 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 4
PREM19/2287 Japan (Visit to UK by Yasuhiro Nakasone, Prime Minister of Japan, June 1984) (Part 1) 1984 Feb 16 1987 Oct 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2997 Germany (Anglo-German relations) (Part 5) 1989 Sep 1 1990 Sep 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2223 Home Affairs (Parole position of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady) 1985 Feb 19 1987 Mar 24 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2094 Economic Policy (Government response to the Roskill Report on Fraud Trials: insider dealing; Take-over Panel review) (Part 3) 1986 Oct 1 1987 May 12 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1593 Parliament (House of Commons procedure: election of Speaker; appointment of Departmental Select Committees; Government reply to Public Accounts Committee; rules on release of documents and disclosure of information to Select Committees) (Part 6) 1983 Apr 12 1985 May 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/292 Local Government (Ministerial responsibility for the Welsh rate support grant; administration of unitary grant in Wales) 1979 May 17 1980 Sep 22 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 16
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
PREM19/919 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
PREM19/583 Royal family (Form of memorial to Lord Mountbatten; erection of a statue) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 19 1981 May 29 Closed till 2022 Unknown

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