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
PREM19/99 Pakistan (Sale of cargo ships to Pakistan by British Shipbuilders) 1979 Jul 27 1979 Aug 23 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 15
PREM19/1238 Foreign policy (United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNLOSC)) (Part 2) 1983 Jan 12 1984 Dec 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/775 Government machinery (Customs facilities at Wick Airport) 1982 Apr 28 1982 Dec 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 75
PREM19/440 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 7) 1980 Dec 1 1981 Mar 12 2011 Dec 30 Secret 244
PREM19/2045 Civil Service (Rules governing acceptance of business appointments by civil servants following resignation or retirement) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 24 1987 Feb 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2715 Government Machinery (Reviews of tourism and leisure policy) (Part 1) 1983 May 13 1989 Jun 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1836 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 30) 1986 Jun 6 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1494 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 4) 1983 Oct 27 1985 Jun 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 315
PREM19/19 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 1 1979 Jul 16 2009 Dec 30 Secret 206
PREM19/1158 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) report on unemployment, September 1982) (Part 8A) 1982 Sep 1 1982 Sep 30 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 142
PREM19/821 Japan (Commercial relations with Japan; proposed Nissan car plant in the UK) (Part 1) 1979 May 17 1981 Nov 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 248
PREM19/695 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 5) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Sep 9 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 126
PREM19/354 Royal Family (Visit to France by Prince Charles, July 1980) 1980 Apr 15 1980 Apr 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 8
PREM19/2418 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Irina Ratushinskaya, 22 December 1986) 1986 Dec 19 1988 Jun 13 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1898 Prime Minister (Meeting with Ted Garrett MP and Nick Brown MP about Swan Hunter) 1986 Mar 20 1986 Mar 20 2016 Feb 19

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