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
PREM19/3190 Trade (Freeports in the UK) 1983 Feb 25 1990 May 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2495 Security (Miscellaneous leaks and security breaches) (Part 1) 1985 Mar 26 1987 Jun 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1709 Economic policy (Reform of personal taxation: draft Green Paper by Chancellor of the Exchequer; 'historic papers' on Sir Geoffrey Howe's proposals in 1982-1983 for family taxation reform) 1985 Sep 27 1985 Dec 3 2014 Dec 30 Secret 236
PREM19/1366 Royal family (Visit by the Queen to Liverpool, May 1984) 1984 Mar 12 1984 May 14 2032 Jan 1 Retained
PREM19/1030 European policy (European Council meeting, Stuttgart, June 1983: briefing papers) (Part 16A) 1983 Jun 7 1983 Jun 16 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 415
PREM19/567 Prime Minister (Meeting with Stephen Ross MP regarding closure of Elliott Turbomachinery Ltd in Cowes) 1981 Apr 30 1981 Jul 3 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 28
PREM19/227 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 9) 1980 Jun 4 1980 Sep 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 196
PREM19/2253 Industrial Policy (Research and development) (Part 4) 1987 Mar 28 1987 Jul 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2974 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 44) 1989 Nov 30 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2138 Energy (Future of British National Oil Corporation (BNOC): proposed sale of British Petroleum (BP) assets; Kuwaiti holding in BP) (Part 6) 1986 Mar 24 1988 Dec 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2600 Civil Service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs: Andrew Report on the 'Review of Government Legal Services') (Part 4) 1989 Jan 13 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1627 Security (Sinking of Argentine warship General Belgrano in 1982: report by House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee) (Part 2) 1985 Mar 1 1985 Oct 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/148 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 2) 1980 Apr 10 1980 Apr 23 2010 Dec 30 Secret 234
PREM19/1287 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 17A) 1984 Jul 2 1984 Oct 5 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/949 Agriculture (Role of Home Grown Cereals Authority; appointment of Chairman) 1983 Aug 16 1983 Nov 11 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 17

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