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
PREM19/1860 National Health (Contraception for the under sixteens) 1980 Apr 30 1986 Feb 27 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1511 Government Machinery (Departmental responsibility for capital tax relief for heritage property) 1985 Mar 1 1985 Mar 14 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 13
PREM19/1175 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; Civil Service manpower; senior management programme; financial management in government departments) (Part 15) 1984 Jan 24 1984 Jun 29 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 552
PREM19/838 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) Unemployment Study) (Part 7) 1982 Apr 30 1982 Aug 20 2012 Dec 28 Secret 230
PREM19/162 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 17 1980 Jan 25 2010 Dec 30 Secret 297
PREM19/2434 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, and private visit to Dallas, October 1987: administrative arrangements) (Part 1) 1987 Mar 1 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1917 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Israel, May 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 Feb 4 1986 Dec 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2604 Civil Service (Facilities agreement for non-industrial Civil Service unions) 1979 Dec 14 1989 Oct 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1774 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste) (Part 21) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1431 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Nassau, Bahamas, October 1985) (Part 9) 1984 Jun 18 1985 Oct 13 2014 Dec 30 Secret 242
PREM19/1095 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; plant closures; future of Ian MacGregor, chairman of British Steel Corporation (BSC)) (Part 12) 1982 Dec 1 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 368
PREM19/758 Foreign policy (Third United Nations Law of the Sea Conference; extension of the UK territorial sea) 1980 May 6 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 Secret 322
PREM19/423 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 8) 1981 Jan 2 1981 Jun 10 2011 Dec 30 Secret 256
PREM19/107 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 1 1979 Jul 4 2009 Dec 30 Secret 382
PREM19/2343 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; draft White Paper) (Part 17) 1988 Dec 20 1988 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21

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