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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1959 Social Services (Reform of social security: pensions, housing benefit and supplementary benefit; child support) (Part 4) 1985 Dec 3 1986 Sep 16 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1093 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity industries; report by Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) on electricity prices for industry; gas appliance retailing; Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) report on efficiency in Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB)) (Part 7) 1982 Oct 14 1983 Mar 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 265
PREM19/309 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; contingency planning) (Part 4) 1980 Jan 22 1980 Feb 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 207
PREM19/2591 Botswana (Visits to the UK by President Masire of Botswana to Britain) 1980 Sep 18 1989 Jun 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/910 Security (Publication of book by Gordon Welchman (former head of Hut 6) called 'The Hut Six Story' on wartime German Enigma cryptanalysis: reactions of US and UK governments) 1982 Apr 30 1982 Jul 27 2012 Dec 28 Secret 8
PREM19/1769 Government Machinery (Advisory Council on Applied Research and Development (ACARD)) (Part 4) 1986 Mar 5 1986 Dec 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/574 Prime Minister (Meeting with Dale Campbell-Savours MP regarding closure of Distington Foundry) 1981 Feb 9 1981 Apr 6 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 198
PREM19/1349 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Jing Shuping, President of China International Economic Consultants (CIEC), November 1984) 1984 Oct 11 1984 Nov 13 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2358 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 13) 1987 Oct 5 1988 Mar 31 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/1011 Education (Wider parental choice; education vouchers) 1982 Nov 5 1983 Nov 18 2013 Aug 1 Secret 205
PREM19/3190 Trade (Freeports in the UK) 1983 Feb 25 1990 May 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/229 European Policy (EEC food exports to Soviet Union; sales of subsidised butter) 1979 Sep 3 1980 Jul 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 80
PREM19/2468 Royal Family (Career of the Duke of Kent: possibility of his taking on an unpaid non-executive board appointment in the public sector) 1979 May 23 1987 Apr 9 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/830 Local government (The water industry: structural change; constitution of Welsh Water Authority; review of land drainage and flood protection) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 31 1982 Oct 4 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 240
PREM19/1689 Defence (Development of torpedoes) 1979 Jul 20 1986 Dec 23 2014 Dec 30

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