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 classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/889 Prime Minister (Meeting with John Opel, President of International Business Machines (IBM), concerning investment in the UK) 1982 May 21 1982 Aug 9 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 28
PREM19/315 Nationalised Industries (Correspondence with Alan Newman Ltd about contract for conversion of liner into floating hotel: negative response from Harland and Wolff and British Shipbuilders) 1980 Jul 2 1980 Aug 4 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 14
PREM19/36 Economic policy (Invisibles in trade figures) 1979 Sep 6 1979 Oct 26 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 67
PREM19/1109 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Dr Edmund Marshall MP: closure of GEC Small Machines Ltd factory at Thorne and Thornhill's chicken processing factory at Stainforth) 1981 May 12 1983 Feb 4 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 46
PREM19/192 Economic policy (Demonetisation of old sixpence) 1980 Jan 25 1980 Jan 28 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 6
PREM19/1171 Arts and amenities (The Royal Academy Appeal) 1984 Jun 8 1984 Dec 31 2014 Jan 3 Unclassified 44
PREM19/253 Home Affairs (Increase in incidence of leukaemia in Lancashire; correspondence with Stan Thorne MP) 1979 Oct 4 1980 Feb 25 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 69
PREM19/1142 Statistics (International competitiveness and productivity: production statistics and measurement of quality improvements) 1983 Jan 28 1983 Feb 25 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 15
PREM19/708 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 12) 1981 Dec 17 1982 Jan 4 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 140
PREM19/8 Civil Service (Stock Criticisms) 1979 Dec 31 1979 Dec 31 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 15
PREM19/1052 Home affairs (Prison workshops and the Priority Suppliers Scheme) 1983 Mar 10 1983 May 3 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 28
PREM19/677 Civil service (Lecture by Sir Douglas Wass on 'The Public Service in Modern Society': draft sent to MT) 1982 Nov 26 1982 Nov 29 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 10
PREM19/103 Prime Minister (Meeting with British Council of Churches Oct 1979) 1979 May 9 1979 Oct 17 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 41
PREM19/74 Industrial policy (Employee stock ownership - correspondence with US Senator) 1979 Jul 31 1979 Sep 3 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 16
PREM19/898 Royal family (Prime Minister's Audiences with the Queen) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1982 Feb 9 2013 Dec 6 147 Unclassified 105

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