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
PREM19/1529 Home affairs (Football hooliganism: behaviour of British football fans abroad; interim report of Popplewell Inquiry into crowd safety and control at sports grounds) (Part 4) 1985 Jul 3 1985 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 385
PREM19/1193 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 29) 1984 Oct 19 1984 Nov 5 2014 Jan 3 Secret 139
PREM19/285 Israel (Visit to UK by Yigael Yadin, Deputy Prime Minister, March 1980: call on Prime Minister) 1980 Mar 3 1980 Apr 3 2010 Dec 30 Secret 19
PREM19/856 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; British Steel Corporation (BSC) corporate plan; United States action against European Community steel imports; third country imports) (Part 11) 1982 Jan 14 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 150
PREM19/520 Local government (Future of the City Corporation: correspondence with Sir Horace Cutler) 1981 Mar 26 1981 Jun 26 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 25
PREM19/2452 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris, November 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Nov 23 1988 Nov 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1962 Social Services (Assistance with fuel costs; alternatives to electricity discount scheme; home insulation scheme; severe weather payments) (Part 1) 1979 May 21 1986 Feb 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2637 Economic Policy (The coinage. Note: With coins) 1980 Nov 20 1989 Sep 11 2016 Dec 30

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