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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2139 Energy (Staffing of Nuclear Installations Inspectorate) 1980 Mar 5 1987 Dec 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1425 China (Sino-British relations; defence sales) (Part 2) 1984 Mar 19 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 235
PREM19/2769 Luxembourg (Prime Minister's visits to Luxembourg, October 1979 and April 1989: policy) 1979 Sep 20 1989 Apr 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/332 Post and Telecommunications (Postal charges on articles for the blind) 1980 May 21 1981 Jan 19 2010 Dec 30 Restricted 37
PREM19/2467 Regional Policy (London Docklands Development Corporation: dismissal of John Mills as deputy chairman) 1985 Jul 18 1987 Dec 10 Retained Closed for 51 years
PREM19/2451 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris, June 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 May 13 1988 Jun 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1688 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM), Nassau, Bahamas, October 1985) (Part 10) 1985 Oct 10 1986 Aug 4 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1961 Social Services (Board and lodging charges) 1984 Nov 28 1986 Dec 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1345 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office: proposals for Post Office counters network; telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; Telecommunications Bill; British Telecom (BT) licence; Mercury Communications Ltd) (Part 8) 1984 Jan 12 1984 Jul 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2636 Economic Policy (Covenanted charitable donations by close companies: taxation of charities; White Paper on Charities) (Part 1) 1985 Mar 22 1989 May 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1226 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 23A) 1984 Feb 1 1984 Mar 1 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/889 Prime Minister (Meeting with John Opel, President of International Business Machines (IBM), concerning investment in the UK) 1982 May 21 1982 Aug 9 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 28
PREM19/593 Security (Leaks about Civil Contingencies Unit (CCU) to Peter Hennessy of 'The Times'; investigation) 1980 Jul 17 1981 Feb 19 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 36
PREM19/253 Home Affairs (Increase in incidence of leukaemia in Lancashire; correspondence with Stan Thorne MP) 1979 Oct 4 1980 Feb 25 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 69
PREM19/1146 Transport (Railway policy) (Part 6) 1982 Oct 7 1983 Apr 25 2013 Aug 1 Secret 184

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