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
PREM19/328 Parliament (Top Salaries Review Body report on Parliamentary pay) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 8 1980 Feb 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 243
PREM19/1683 Civil Service (Long term management and manpower policy: control of civil service running costs; duties and responsibilities of civil servants; performance bonus experiment; budgeting in government dePartments) (Part 18) 1985 Sep 10 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1939 Science and Technology (Intellectual property rights and innovation; future of Patent Office; patents for pharmaceutical industry) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 2 1986 Mar 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1340 Parliament (Queen's speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising the State Opening) (Part 5) 1982 Oct 27 1984 Oct 31 Retained Retained
PREM19/884 Prime Minister (Meetings with Geoffrey Robinson MP to discuss redundancies in Jaguar factories in Coventry) 1981 Jun 1 1982 Jan 21 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 28
PREM19/548 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; the Iron and Steel Bill; British Steel Corporation (BSC) corporate plan) (Part 8) 1980 Dec 4 1981 Feb 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 155
PREM19/2630 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 20) 1988 Nov 4 1989 Aug 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/249 Government Machinery (Future of Civil Service Department; integration with the Treasury; Select Committee consideration) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 14 1980 Jul 4 2010 Dec 30 Secret 215
PREM19/2098 Economic Policy (Pension funds) 1987 Mar 24 1987 Jul 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2355 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 15) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Dec 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1598 Police (Police pay) 1979 May 8 1985 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3185 Soviet Union (Possible visit to the UK by President Gorbachev in 1991) 1990 Oct 25 1990 Oct 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1258 Government machinery (Appointment of Sir Anthony Parsons and Roger Jackling as advisers to Prime Minister on foreign affairs and defence policy respectively; improvements to joint intelligence machinery post Falklands Conflict) 1982 Aug 6 1984 Jan 18 2014 Jan 3
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
PREM19/2099 Economic Policy (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor of the Exchequer) (Part 2) 1986 Nov 3 1988 Aug 22 2016 Jul 21

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