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
PREM19/1525 Home Affairs (Police and Criminal Procedure Bill: police complaints procedure; powers of entry; enforcement powers of revenue dePartments; collection of Value Added Tax (VAT); Crown Prosecution Service) (Part 2) 1982 Jan 5 1985 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 290
PREM19/1189 Defence (Correspondence from Professor R.V. Jones) 1982 Jun 14 1984 Sep 5 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/852 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy; gas legislation; industrial energy policy; wage negotiations) (Part 6) 1981 Oct 13 1982 Oct 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 449
PREM19/516 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 6) 1981 Sep 11 1981 Oct 30 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 108
PREM19/176 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 3) 1979 Mar 1 1980 May 12 2010 Dec 30 Secret 198
PREM19/2448 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to NATO, February 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Sep 25 1988 Feb 22 2016 Jul 21
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
PREM19/2631 Economic Policy (Exchange rate: exchange control policy) (Part 3) 1987 Jan 29 1989 May 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1788 Home Affairs (Family Policy Group: renewing the values of society) (Part 3) 1983 Mar 2 1986 Sep 8 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1445 Defence (Ballistic missile defence: United States Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI); UK participation in research programme) (Part 3) 1985 May 30 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 285
PREM19/1109 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Dr Edmund Marshall MP: closure of GEC Small Machines Ltd factory at Thorne and Thornhill's chicken processing factory at Stainforth) 1981 May 12 1983 Feb 4 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 46
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
PREM19/437 Economic policy (Exchange rate; exchange control policy; inflow controls) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1981 Oct 23 2011 Dec 30 Secret 267
PREM19/122 South Africa (Plessey Radar contract - poss breach UN embargo) 1979 Aug 1 1979 Sep 10 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 42
PREM19/2357 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 12) 1987 Feb 12 1987 Sep 28 2016 Dec 30

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