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 classificationsort ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/510 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 20 1981 Nov 11 2011 Dec 30 Secret - UK eyes A 211
PREM19/817 Ireland (Northern Ireland Security Co-ordinator: appointments of Sir Maurice Oldfield and Sir Brooks Richards; post then left in abeyance) 1979 Sep 18 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret - Cabinet 2 146
PREM19/144 Civil Service (Pay and Pensions: reports by Government Actuary’s Department and Civil Service Pay Research Unit) 1979 May 17 1980 May 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 144
PREM19/18 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1979 May 31 2009 Dec 30 Secret 169
PREM19/362 Security (Leak in Guardian and Time Out of Ministerial discussion on civil nuclear power programme) 1979 Dec 6 1980 Mar 24 2010 Dec 30 Secret 23
PREM19/922 Social services (Employers' statutory sick pay scheme) 1979 Dec 6 1981 Nov 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 85
PREM19/1263 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 12) 1984 Feb 1 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 16 Secret 458
PREM19/237 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister’s bilateral meetings in Belgrade whilst attending Tito’s funeral) 1980 May 5 1980 May 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 92
PREM19/111 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 6) 1979 Aug 31 1979 Sep 11 2009 Dec 30 Secret 206
PREM19/674 Civil service (Pay and pensions) (Part 10) 1982 Feb 8 1982 Feb 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 274
PREM19/1015 Energy (Government evidence to inquiry on coal mining in Vale of Belvoir) 1979 Jul 16 1983 Mar 4 2013 Aug 1 Secret 133
PREM19/1708 Economic policy (Reform of taxation policy: preparation of Green Paper on personal taxation; partnership taxation) (Part 15) 1984 Jan 10 1986 Jan 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 203
PREM19/205 Energy (Energy Policy) (Part 5) 1980 May 9 1980 Dec 10 2010 Dec 30 Secret 218
PREM19/1579 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 16) 1985 Jan 21 1985 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 382
PREM19/79 Ireland (Taoiseach's visits to UK) (Part 1) 1979 May 2 1979 Sep 6 2009 Dec 30 Secret 156

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