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 Endssort ascending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2514 Security (Allegations against the Security Service) 1977 Jul 16 1987 Mar 18 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1338 Parliament (Article in ‘The Listener’ by Julian Critchley MP alleging breach of pairing rules by Tom Pendry MP in 1976 vote: Pendry's action against Critchley; possible disclosure of report by Government and Opposition Whips in June 1976 to Prime Minister Callaghan) 1976 Jun 18 1984 Oct 12 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2610 Deaths (Action by the Prime Minister on the deaths of eminent persons: Government representation at memorial services) (Part 2) 1976 Mar 4 1989 Oct 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1625 Security (Policy on interception: legislation) (Part 4) 1975 Oct 31 1985 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30
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
PREM19/1906 Prime Minister (Gift of moon dust to the people of the UK from President Nixon of the USA. Note: With photograph) 1970 Feb 10 1985 Jan 18 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2517 Security (Procedure for dealing with suspicious letters and parcels received at 10 Downing Street: letter bombs) (Part 1) 1968 Sep 25 1986 Jan 20 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/919 Security (Security at Chequers; reports on break-in (September 1966); mishandled mail (December 1972); Territorial Army exercise (June 1973); low-flying over Chequers (February 1974)) 1966 Oct 7 1982 Oct 18 2012 Dec 28 Secret 23

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