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? File classification Pagessort descending Link to selections
PREM19/1028 European policy (European Council meeting, Brussels, March 1983: briefing papers) (Part 15A) 1983 Mar 9 1983 Mar 18 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 325
PREM19/1080 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 16) 1983 Jul 4 1983 Sep 16 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 325
PREM19/779 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Scrutiny Programme 1982) (Part 12) 1982 Feb 19 1982 Nov 2 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 326
PREM19/803 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland (BL)) (Part 6) 1981 Nov 1 1982 Jul 29 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 326
PREM19/1469 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: White Paper on Schools) (Part 4) 1984 Jan 3 1985 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 327
PREM19/1206 Economic policy (G7 Summit - London) (Part 14) 1983 Jan 28 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3 Secret 327
PREM19/710 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 14) 1982 Feb 22 1982 Mar 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 327
PREM19/1240 (main part) France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand; meeting of Franco-British Council; Prime Minister's meetings with Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy and Minister for European Affairs Roland Dumas) (Part 3) 1981 Sep 11 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3 Top Secret 327
PREM19/508 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach (Charles Haughey, Garret Fitzgerald); Anglo-Irish joint studies) (Part 4) 1981 Mar 11 1981 Oct 20 2011 Dec 30 Secret 328
PREM19/1424 Chile (UK/Chilean relations: policy on arms sales) 1979 Sep 17 1985 Dec 9 2014 Dec 30 Secret 328
PREM19/55 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 3) 1979 Oct 25 1979 Nov 30 2009 Dec 30 Secret 329
PREM19/1759 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 6) 1985 Dec 1 1986 Oct 30 2015 Dec 30 4 Secret 329
PREM19/1092 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 7) 1982 Sep 9 1983 May 10 2013 Aug 1 Secret 330
PREM19/480 Government machinery (Internal audit & financial control in government) (Part 1) 1979 May 30 1981 Aug 12 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 331
PREM19/1493 Fishing Industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 5) 1981 Sep 22 1985 Jun 14 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 331

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