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
PREM19/1351 Prime Minister (Election of Prime Minister as Honorary Bencher of Gray’s Inn) 1983 Feb 9 1984 Dec 6 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1013 Elections (Procedure for General Elections: actions to be taken by Prime Minister's Office; allocation of official residences; questions of procedure for Ministers; Ministerial travel; Queen's speech on opening of Parliament) 1970 Aug 4 1982 Jul 19 Retained Unknown
PREM19/678 Civil service (BBC Radio 4 series on the Civil Service; participation by Ministers and senior officials) 1981 Feb 9 1982 Jul 5 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 32
PREM19/2304 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 5) 1986 Sep 2 1987 Jan 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3023 Home Affairs (Financial provision after divorce) 1982 Jan 1 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2276 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 22) 1986 Nov 1 1987 Oct 31 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1609 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Sean Hughes MP on the closure of Huntley and Palmer biscuit factory in Knowsley and Plessey Telecommunications plant in Huyton) 1983 Nov 10 1985 Jul 25 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/307 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; contingency planning) (Part 2) 1979 Nov 28 1980 Jan 7 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 258
PREM19/1269 Housing (Organisation and structure of building societies; mortgage rates; review of house purchase finance) (Part 1) 1979 May 22 1984 Jun 29 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/934 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail unions' industrial action; contingency planning; McCarthy report on railway productivity and pay; rail fare increases) (Part 5) 1982 Jun 28 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 265
PREM19/598 Trade (Britain's international trading policies; non-tariff barriers; effects on UK industry of open trading system) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 2 1981 Oct 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 167
PREM19/2197 Government Machinery (Reduction in number of circulars from government departments to local authorities) 1979 May 8 1987 Jul 6 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2887 Transport (Consultative paper on the Government's response to the Blennerhassett Committee's recommendations on drinking and driving: White Paper on road safety) 1979 Jul 26 1989 Nov 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1887 Portugal (UK/Portugal relations; internal situation; death of Dr Francisco de Sa Carneiro; Prime Minister's meeting with Dr Mario Soares, 14 February 1984)(Part 1) 1979 Jul 7 1986 May 2 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1527 Home Affairs (Football hooliganism: behaviour of British football fans abroad; Bradford City stadium fire and European Cup Final disaster in Brussels, May 1985) (Part 2) 1985 Mar 27 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 344

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