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? File classification Pagessort ascending Link to selections
PREM19/958 Arts and amenities (Policy towards the arts; private sponsorship; financial scrutiny) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 26 1983 Nov 23 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 288
PREM19/27 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Tokyo) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1979 Jun 29 2009 Dec 30 2 Secret 288
PREM19/406 Civil service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs) (Part 1) 1980 Feb 8 1981 Jul 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 288
PREM19/1046 Government machinery (Unpublished reports by Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) on higher education, the black economy, unemployment and the state monopolies) 1982 Aug 26 1983 Jul 1 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 288
PREM19/409 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy; Sir Derek Rayner's recommendations for reforms; Civil Service numbers and costs; chain of command review; efficiency) (Part 8) 1981 Mar 9 1981 Sep 28 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 288
PREM19/731 Education (Policy on education expenditure; computers in schools; management of higher education; university grants) (Part 2) 1981 Mar 24 1982 Jun 7 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 287
PREM19/859 Overseas aid (Development policy; aid framework 1981-1982 to 1983-1984; UK contribution to International Development Association) (Part 2) 1980 Mar 19 1982 Mar 31 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 287
PREM19/60 Government machinery (Rayner review) (Part 1) 1979 May 7 1979 Jul 14 2009 Dec 30 1 Confidential 287
PREM19/1219 European policy (Presidency of European Commission; UK Commissioners; official posts in Commission; European Secretariat in Cabinet Office) (Part 1) 1980 May 29 1984 Feb 6 2014 Jan 3 Secret 287
PREM19/1564 Local Government (Planning systems, policy and practice: superstores and the planning system; Sir John Sainsbury's correspondence and meetings with Prime Minister on planning controls; public inquiries) (Part 1) 1983 Jul 14 1985 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 286
PREM19/631 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 20) 1982 May 25 1982 May 27 2012 Dec 28 Secret 286
PREM19/985 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 23) 1983 Jul 1 1983 Jul 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 286
PREM19/669 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 4) 1981 Oct 26 1982 Feb 9 2013 Jul 25 Confidential 285
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
PREM19/1100 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office; cable expansion and broadcasting policy; telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; Telecommunications Bill) (Part 6) 1982 Oct 28 1983 Mar 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 284

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