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
PREM19/852 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy; gas legislation; industrial energy policy; wage negotiations) (Part 6) 1981 Oct 13 1982 Oct 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 449
PREM19/1707 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 15) 1985 Dec 2 1986 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 448
PREM19/1432 Cyprus (Internal situation: UK/Cyprus relations) (Part 2) 1983 Dec 1 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 446
PREM19/116 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 11) 1979 Dec 2 1979 Dec 21 2009 Dec 30 Secret 443
PREM19/478 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Rayner Scrutiny Programme) (Part 8) 1981 Feb 2 1981 May 20 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 436
PREM19/1392 South Africa (Visit to UK by Prime Minister, P.W. Botha, June 1984; meeting with Prime Minister) 1984 Apr 13 1984 Jul 19 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 435
PREM19/1185 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 15 1984 Feb 28 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 435
PREM19/992 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 24) 1983 Jun 6 1983 Aug 25 2013 Aug 1 Secret 431
PREM19/1722 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: grant aided schools; biased teaching and political indoctrination in schools and colleges) (Part 6) 1985 Sep 4 1986 Apr 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 431
PREM19/1559 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 25) 1985 Jan 1 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 425
PREM19/1176 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; Civil Service manpower; senior management programme; financial management in government departments; unified grading) (Part 16) 1984 Jul 2 1984 Nov 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 425
PREM19/1478 European Policy (European Community Budget: developments in the European Community; Dooge Committee on European Community institutions) (Part 28) 1984 Nov 1 1985 Feb 27 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 424
PREM19/1495 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 5) 1985 Jul 27 1985 Jun 29 2014 Dec 30 4 Top Secret 424
PREM19/1074 Lebanon (Internal situation; Israeli/Lebanese hostilities; Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 3) 1982 Jul 12 1983 Sep 5 2013 Aug 1 Secret 423
PREM19/348 Rhodesia (Constitutional Conference, Lancaster House, London, Sept-Dec 1979: submission folder; proceedings & conference papers, CC (79) 1-10) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Sep 14 2010 Dec 30 Secret 419

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