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 Pages Link to selectionssort descending
PREM19/769 Gibraltar (Policy) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 19 1982 Jan 20 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 162
PREM19/770 Gibraltar (Policy) (Part 2) 1982 Feb 11 1982 Oct 28 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 189
PREM19/771 Government buildings (Building of an international conference centre on Broad Sanctuary in Westminster; redevelopment of Richmond Yard/Bridge Street site) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 1 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 8 Secret 215
PREM19/772 Government machinery (Review of supporting services in research and development and allied scientific establishments) 1981 Jan 8 1982 Jul 26 2012 Dec 28 Restricted 90
PREM19/773 Government machinery ('Improving management effectiveness in Government', memorandum by Management Consultants Association; review of financial control in Department of Industry; employment of consultants in government) 1981 Nov 17 1982 Mar 29 2012 Dec 28 Restricted 78
PREM19/774 Government machinery (Select Committee proposal for new Ministry for the arts, heritage and tourism) 1982 Dec 3 1982 Dec 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 6
PREM19/775 Government machinery (Customs facilities at Wick Airport) 1982 Apr 28 1982 Dec 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 75
PREM19/776 Government machinery (Civil Contingencies Unit reports; emergency powers legislation; withstanding strikes in key sectors of the economy) (Part 2) 1981 Mar 2 1982 Sep 29 2012 Dec 28 Secret 86
PREM19/777 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; financial management in the Ministry of Defence; the Scrutiny Programme) (Part 10) 1981 Sep 17 1982 Feb 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 232
PREM19/778 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Scrutiny Programme 1982) (Part 11) 1982 Jan 11 1982 Feb 12 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 115
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
PREM19/780 Government machinery (Organisation of Treasury and Civil Service Department (CSD); reorganisation of the central departments; creation of Management and Personnel Office (MPO); future of Efficiency Unit; policy advice for Prime Minister) (Part 5) 1981 Nov 4 1982 Jul 30 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 303
PREM19/781 Government machinery (Future of the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection; departmental arrangements for overseas aid and development: management review of Overseas Development Administration (ODA); review of common services of FCO and ODA) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1982 Jun 16 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 215
PREM19/782 Government machinery (Future of quangos; action following review by Sir Leo Pliatzky) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 24 1981 Feb 27 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 324
PREM19/783 Home affairs (Family Policy Group; renewing the values of society) 1982 May 26 1982 Oct 29 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 227

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