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 classificationsort ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/510 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 20 1981 Nov 11 2011 Dec 30 Secret - UK eyes A 211
PREM19/817 Ireland (Northern Ireland Security Co-ordinator: appointments of Sir Maurice Oldfield and Sir Brooks Richards; post then left in abeyance) 1979 Sep 18 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret - Cabinet 2 146
PREM19/617 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 6) 1982 Apr 12 1982 Apr 15 2012 Dec 28 Secret 278
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
PREM19/148 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 2) 1980 Apr 10 1980 Apr 23 2010 Dec 30 Secret 234
PREM19/494 Industrial policy (National Union of Mineworkers (NUM): structure and procedures, and leading personalities; likely tactics in pay negotiations) 1980 Mar 17 1981 Oct 27 2011 Dec 30 Secret 40
PREM19/22 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 5) 1979 Oct 1 1979 Oct 23 2009 Dec 30 Secret 122
PREM19/710 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 14) 1982 Feb 22 1982 Mar 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 327
PREM19/1267 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 16) 1984 Aug 1 1984 Sep 25 2014 Jan 3 11 Secret 415
PREM19/1615 Regional Policy (Inner city policy: Urban Programme; illegal rate setting by Liverpool City Council; appointment of commissioners; reorganisation of schools) (Part 5) 1984 Apr 27 1985 Jan 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 334
PREM19/115 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 10) 1979 Nov 19 1979 Nov 30 2009 Dec 30 Secret 273
PREM19/804 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 8) 1981 Oct 7 1982 Feb 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 205
PREM19/331 Poland (Internal situation; relations with UK) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 22 1980 Nov 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 227
PREM19/555 Parliament (Legislative programme, 1980-1981 and 1981-1982) (Part 6) 1980 Oct 28 1981 Mar 31 2011 Dec 30 Secret 196
PREM19/1583 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity policy: gas industry privatisation; industrial energy policy) (Part 11) 1985 Jun 3 1985 Nov 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 231

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