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 ascending Link to selections
PREM19/642 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 31) 1982 Nov 1 1982 Nov 29 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 292
PREM19/1225 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 22) 1983 Nov 1 1984 Jan 30 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 291
PREM19/491 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 7) 1980 Dec 1 1981 Oct 2 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 291
PREM19/1166 Angola (Internal situation; appointment of Jose Eduardo dos Santos as President; UK/Angolan relations) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 12 1984 Mar 22 2014 Jan 3 Secret 291
PREM19/974 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: HARM/ALARM anti-radar missiles; rising cost of defence equipment; competition in defence procurement) (Part 1) 1983 Mar 29 1983 Nov 23 2013 Aug 1 Secret 291
PREM19/1569 Manpower (Employment policy: special employment programmes; White Paper on education and training for young people; Youth Training Scheme (YTS); long term unemployment) (Part 12) 1985 Mar 1 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 291
PREM19/1205 Economic policy (Future of International Computers Limited (ICL)) (Part 2) 1981 Mar 10 1984 Feb 16 2014 Jan 3 Secret 291
PREM19/324 Parliament (House of Commons procedure; reorganization of Select Committees; Departmental Select Committees; provision of evidence to Select Committees) (Part 3) 1980 Mar 14 1980 Jun 18 2010 Dec 30 Secret 290
PREM19/1539 Industrial policy (Prime Minister's meetings with Confederation of British Industry (CBI)) (Part 4) 1983 Nov 8 1985 Mar 18 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 290
PREM19/1525 Home Affairs (Police and Criminal Procedure Bill: police complaints procedure; powers of entry; enforcement powers of revenue dePartments; collection of Value Added Tax (VAT); Crown Prosecution Service) (Part 2) 1982 Jan 5 1985 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 290
PREM19/1099 Parliament (Future of Concorde aircraft; financial aspects; discussions with French) 1980 Dec 12 1983 Mar 17 2013 Aug 1 Secret 289
PREM19/720 Economic policy (Liaison Committee on presentation of government policies; guidance to Ministers and MPs) (Part 1) 1981 Dec 23 1982 Aug 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 289
PREM19/832 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 9) 1982 Jan 11 1982 Apr 14 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 289
PREM19/1412 Aerospace (Future of British Airways (BA): BA privatisation and United States anti-trust suits; Laker Airways liquidation; airports policy) (Part 3) 1984 Nov 2 1985 Apr 3 2014 Dec 30 Secret 289
PREM19/409 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy; Sir Derek Rayner's recommendations for reforms; Civil Service numbers and costs; chain of command review; efficiency) (Part 8) 1981 Mar 9 1981 Sep 28 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 288

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