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
PREM19/1864 National Health (Doctors' and dentists' pay; reports of Review Body) (Part 3) 1981 May 15 1986 May 29 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/805 Industrial policy (Information technology (IT): appointment of IT Advisory Panel and establishment of IT Unit in Cabinet Office; Kenneth Baker's role as Minister for IT) (Part 2) 1981 Apr 1 1981 Oct 31 2012 Dec 28 Restricted 158
PREM19/2541 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 9) 1987 Nov 2 1987 Dec 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1746 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 13) 1985 Jan 7 1986 Mar 19 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1403 USA (Visit to UK by Donald Rumsfeld, President Reagan’s special Middle East envoy: meeting with Prime Minister) 1984 Jan 16 1984 Jan 20 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/139 Anguilla (Legislation for separation of Anguilla from St Kitts-Nevis) 1980 Mar 26 1980 Oct 22 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 20
PREM19/2309 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 10) 1988 Apr 7 1988 Jul 28 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1061 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 9) 1982 Mar 24 1983 Jan 20 2013 Aug 1 Secret 245
PREM19/3037 India (Visit to the UK by Ramaswamy Venkataraman, President of India, April 1990) 1990 Feb 1 1990 Apr 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/479 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Rayner Scrutiny Programme) (Part 9) 1981 May 21 1981 Sep 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 341
PREM19/724 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Versailles) (Part 8) 1982 Jun 3 1982 Jun 5 2012 Dec 28 Secret 213
PREM19/2282 Japan (internal situation: economic reports; changes of Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 13 1986 Oct 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1664 Aerospace (British Aerospace (BAe): shares for employees) 1980 May 3 1986 Jul 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1323 Nationalised industries (Pay of Chairmen and Board members) (Part 2) 1981 Dec 4 1984 May 29 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/58 Germany (Chancellor's visits to UK, Schmidt May 1979) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 May 25 2009 Dec 30 Secret 220

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