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
PREM19/307 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; contingency planning) (Part 2) 1979 Nov 28 1980 Jan 7 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 258
PREM19/308 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; contingency planning) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 8 1980 Jan 22 2010 Dec 30 Secret 319
PREM19/2201 Government Machinery (Review of the Lobby system of briefing journalists) 1981 Oct 27 1987 Jul 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2896 Disasters (Fire at King's Cross Underground Station, 18 November 1989) 1987 Nov 19 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2071 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: European Fighter Aircraft (EFA); Chieftain tank replacement;) (Part 6) 1988 Apr 1 1988 Oct 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1578 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 15) 1984 Nov 21 1985 Jan 18 2014 Dec 30 Secret 379
PREM19/1240 (annex) France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand; briefing for May 1982 meeting of Franco-British Council in Edinburgh) (Part 3) 1981 Sep 11 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3 Secret 171
PREM19/904 Science and Technology (Presentation on information technology) 1982 Feb 18 1982 May 20 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 47
PREM19/568 Prime Minister (Meeting with Harry Cowans MP regarding threatened closure of Vickers Ltd Elswick works) 1981 May 20 1981 Jul 1 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 19
PREM19/228 European Policy (Prime Minister’s meetings with President of European Commission, Roy Jenkins) 1979 May 10 1980 Nov 4 2010 Dec 30 Secret 192
PREM19/2578 Defence (Rundown of Royal Dockyards at Chatham and Portsmouth: Chatham Historic Dockyard) 1982 Apr 19 1986 Jul 11 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2052 Defence (Armed Forces pay; Service doctors' and dentists' pay; London weighting) (Part 3) 1986 Apr 11 1987 Jul 16 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2718 Home Affairs (Government support for voluntary bodies) (Part 1) 1985 Mar 11 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1839 Mapower (Employment policy: enterprise and employment measures; feasibility study of a 'Workfare' scheme to replace long term unemployment in UK) (Part 3) 1985 Aug 5 1986 May 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1497 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) (Part 1) 1985 Apr 1 1985 Apr 4 2014 Dec 30

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