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
PREM19/73 Industrial policy (Ford Motor Company - meeting with Henry Ford II) 1979 May 7 1979 Jul 2 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 71
PREM19/539 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 15 1981 Mar 4 2011 Dec 30 Secret 189
PREM19/199 Education (Future of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA)) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 20 1980 Nov 28 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 36
PREM19/2667 European Policy (European Council meeting, Madrid, June 1989) (Part 34) 1989 Jun 27 1989 Jul 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1808 Iran (Internal situation: Anglo-Iranian relations) (Part 9) 1981 Feb 23 1986 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/786 Hong Kong (Prime Minister's meetings with Sir Yue-Kong Pao, Chairman of World-wide Shipping Group) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1982 Jan 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 164
PREM19/1465 Economic policy (Meetings of National Economic Development Council (NEDC): future role) (Part 3) 1982 Jan 1 1985 Sep 10 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 299
PREM19/2372 Norway (Visits to UK by Norwegian Prime Ministers, Kare Willoch and Gro Harlem Bruntland) 1981 Nov 6 1987 Feb 24 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1 Archives (Suez 1956 files) 1980 Feb 21 1986 Jun 30 2006 Dec 1 Confidential 36
PREM19/460 European policy (Report by the 'Three Wise Men' on European Community institutions) 1979 Mar 13 1981 Jun 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 184
PREM19/1043 Government machinery (Special advisers; appointment procedure; pay) (Part 2) 1980 Oct 10 1983 Dec 22 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 201
PREM19/706 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 8) 1982 Jul 2 1982 Oct 27 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 136
PREM19/1125 Royal family (Prince of Wales' article, 'Help for Self-Help', for publication in The Economist) 1983 Mar 11 1983 Mar 18 Closed until 2024-01-01 Unknown
PREM19/2263 Information and Publicity (Status of transcripts of Prime Minister's press conferences: request from office of Neil Kinnock, Leader of the Opposition) 1988 Mar 14 1988 Mar 22 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2515 Security (The Hijacking Declaration of the Bonn Summit, July 1978: prevention of international terrorist activity) (Part 5) 1986 Jun 2 1988 May 25 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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