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
PREM19/541 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 4) 1981 Jul 22 1981 Nov 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 284
PREM19/1295 Italy (MT’s visits to Italy; Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 2) 1980 Oct 29 1984 Feb 2 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 283
PREM19/1470 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: White Paper on Better Schools; Green Paper on Higher Education) (Part 5) 1985 Mar 1 1985 Aug 27 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 283
PREM19/1587 New Zealand (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers Robert Muldoon and David Lange) (Part 1) 1979 May 14 1985 Mar 4 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 283
PREM19/933 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail unions' threatened industrial action; contingency planning) (Part 4) 1982 May 10 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 283
PREM19/1148 United Nations (Second Special Session on Disarmament; Prime Minister's visit to New York and Washington, June 1982) (Part 1) 1982 Feb 16 1983 Oct 19 2013 Aug 1 Secret 282
PREM19/875 Posts and telecommunications (Future of Post Office: liberalisation of telecommunications monopoly; British Telecom's investment programme; BT and postal tariff increases) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 4 1982 Mar 16 2013 Sep 24 Top Secret 282
PREM19/365 Social Services (Rayner study on arrangements for paying social security benefits) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 22 1980 Sep 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 282
PREM19/1089 National health (Waste in the National Health Service (NHS); priorities and policies for health and personal social services) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1983 Mar 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 282
PREM19/1474 Energy (Future of British National Oil Corporation (BNOC): flotation of Britoil, BNOC oil-producing business) (Part 5) 1982 Jan 14 1985 Nov 12 2014 Dec 30 4 Secret 282
PREM19/407 Civil service (Pay of professional, technological and scientific grades: possibility of industrial action; review of Scientific Civil Service) 1979 Jun 15 1981 Jul 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 282
PREM19/1504 Foreign Policy (Strategy on foreign policy and defence issues: Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) resources) (Part 2) 1984 Jan 9 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 281
PREM19/1190 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 26) 1983 Dec 5 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3 Secret 281
PREM19/1462 Economic policy (Pay Review Body reports on pay of civil servants, armed forces and National Health Service (NHS); Top Salaries Review Body (TSRB) pension awards; pay of Permanent and Deputy Secretaries) (Part 6) 1984 Mar 6 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 281
PREM19/1649 Transport (Channel Fixed Link (Channel Tunnel): economic considerations; discussions with the French) (Part 2) 1982 Feb 16 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 280

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