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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1367 Royal family (Relations between the media and members of the Royal Family; possible legal measures to prevent harassment) 1984 Jan 3 1984 Jan 18 Retained Retained
PREM19/1031 European policy (Enlargement of European Community (EC): accession of Greece; pre-accession aid to Portugal; Spanish accession; EC attitude to Turkey) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1983 Mar 10 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 168
PREM19/568 Prime Minister (Meeting with Harry Cowans MP regarding threatened closure of Vickers Ltd Elswick works) 1981 May 20 1981 Jul 1 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 19
PREM19/228 European Policy (Prime Minister’s meetings with President of European Commission, Roy Jenkins) 1979 May 10 1980 Nov 4 2010 Dec 30 Secret 192
PREM19/2254 Industrial Policy (Research and development) (Part 5) 1987 Aug 3 1988 Dec 15 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2975 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 45) 1990 Mar 2 1990 Apr 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2146 European Policy (Presidency of European Commission (reappointment of Jacques Delors): UK Commissioners (appointment and meetings with Prime Minister); David Williamson to succeed Emile Noel as Secretary-General; UK representation in official posts in Commission) (Part 3) 1984 Jan 2 1988 Jul 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2601 Civil Service (Position of the Head of the Civil Service) 1987 Jun 25 1987 Jun 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1628 Security (Contingency arrangements for dealing with terrorist incidents) 1979 Jun 8 1985 Nov 21 2014 Dec 30 Secret 25
PREM19/149 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 3) 1980 Apr 24 1980 May 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 143
PREM19/488 India (UK/Indian relations; Indo/Soviet arms deal) (Part 1) 1980 May 28 1981 Jan 28 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 165
PREM19/1288 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 17B) 1984 Oct 6 1984 Oct 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2433 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Invitations, all declined, from various organisations in the USA) (Part 2) 1982 Apr 1 1986 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2158 European Policy (European Council meeting, Copenhagen, December 1987: briefing papers) (Part 27A) 1987 Dec 1 1987 Dec 5 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2800 Police (Police pay) (Part 2) 1985 Mar 1 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30

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