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 descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/535 Middle East (Prime Minister's visits to Kuwait and Bahrain, September 1981: meetings with Rulers and Ministers) 1981 Apr 15 1981 Nov 9 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 151
PREM19/1205 Economic policy (Future of International Computers Limited (ICL)) (Part 2) 1981 Mar 10 1984 Feb 16 2014 Jan 3 Secret 291
PREM19/1962 Social Services (Assistance with fuel costs; alternatives to electricity discount scheme; home insulation scheme; severe weather payments) (Part 1) 1979 May 21 1986 Feb 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2637 Economic Policy (The coinage. Note: With coins) 1980 Nov 20 1989 Sep 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/88 Italy (MT’s visits to Italy; Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 20 1979 Oct 8 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 101
PREM19/2548 Syria (Internal situation: military capability; UK/Syrian relations) 1980 Mar 14 1988 Oct 25 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1752 European Policy (European Council meeting, Luxembourg, December 1985) (Part 24) 1985 Nov 26 1986 Jan 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/429 Economic policy (Meetings of National Economic Development Council (NEDC); ministerial membership; Prime Minister's attendance) (Part 2) 1979 Dec 14 1981 Dec 29 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 187
PREM19/792 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong: Prime Minister's visit to China; special briefing) 1982 Sep 6 1982 Sep 23 2012 Dec 28 Secret 317
PREM19/1461 Economic policy (Financial services: position of Stock Exchange, including future changes to structure and membership; Gower Report on Investor Protection; securities regulation; commercial fraud) (Part 1) 1983 Nov 24 1985 Sep 18 2014 Dec 30 Secret 351
PREM19/2363 Nationalised Industries (NATO Summits) (Part 1) 1982 Mar 3 1982 Jun 11 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/8 Civil Service (Stock Criticisms) 1979 Dec 31 1979 Dec 31 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 15
PREM19/3193 Transport (London Regional Transport: Central London Rail Study) (Part 3) 1989 Apr 3 1990 Apr 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2326 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 16) 1987 Mar 5 1987 Sep 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1670 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 5) 1986 Mar 3 1986 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19

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