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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2492 Security (Terrorist activity and extremism in Great Britain, including threat to UK nuclear facilities and nuclear materials) (Part 4) 1987 Oct 19 1988 Sep 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2515 Security (The Hijacking Declaration of the Bonn Summit, July 1978: prevention of international terrorist activity) (Part 5) 1986 Jun 2 1988 May 25 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2498 Security (Threat of unauthorised disclosure by former employee of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)) 1987 Feb 6 1987 Mar 20 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2501 Security (White Paper on Reform of Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911: proposed Protection of Official Information Bill; enforcing the duty of confidentiality) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 3 1988 Jul 19 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1132 Security (Workers Revolutionary Party; youth training centres) 1981 Mar 3 1983 Mar 7 2013 Aug 1 Secret 32
PREM19/1956 Sierra Leone (Visits to UK by President Stevens, November 1980, and President Momoh, March 1986: meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 Aug 9 1986 Mar 5 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2518 Singapore (Relations with UK: visits by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew; meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 May 24 1988 Mar 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/368 Social Services (Action on child abuse; death of Lucy Gates) (Part 3) 1980 Nov 5 1980 Dec 31 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 16
PREM19/1962 Social Services (Assistance with fuel costs; alternatives to electricity discount scheme; home insulation scheme; severe weather payments) (Part 1) 1979 May 21 1986 Feb 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/121 Social services (Benefits) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 19 1979 Dec 20 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 158
PREM19/1961 Social Services (Board and lodging charges) 1984 Nov 28 1986 Dec 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/922 Social services (Employers' statutory sick pay scheme) 1979 Dec 6 1981 Nov 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 85
PREM19/1390 Social services (Genetic Manipulation Advisory Group (GMAG)) 1980 Dec 31 1984 Jan 11 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2857 Social Services (Long-term strategy for social security operations) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 24 1989 Jun 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1958 Social Services (Long-term strategy for social security operations; procurement of mainframe computers) (Part 1) 1980 Sep 26 1986 Apr 21 2016 Feb 19

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