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 descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/166 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 9) 1980 Mar 3 1980 Jul 2 2010 Dec 30 Secret 184
PREM19/404 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; Civil Service pay dispute; industrial action; establishment of independent inquiry) (Part 7) 1981 Jul 10 1981 Nov 5 2011 Dec 30 Secret 347
PREM19/273 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; sanctions) (Part 3) 1979 Dec 23 1980 Jan 8 2010 Dec 30 Secret 265
PREM19/1164 Aerospace (Possible merger between British Aerospace and Thorn EMI or General Electric Company (GEC)) 1984 May 2 1984 Jul 11 2014 Jan 3 Secret 42
PREM19/43 Energy (Energy Policy) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 17 1979 Oct 30 2009 Dec 30 Secret 232
PREM19/1038 Gibraltar (Policy) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 2 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 315
PREM19/1039 Government machinery (Departments' programmes for next five years; preparation of 'forward look' reports) 1982 Sep 13 1983 Mar 17 2013 Aug 1 Secret 73
PREM19/588 Security (Sir Peter Hayman: allegations against former public official of unnatural sexual proclivities; security aspects) 1980 Oct 27 1981 Mar 20 2015 Jan 30 Secret 38
PREM19/1474 Energy (Future of British National Oil Corporation (BNOC): flotation of Britoil, BNOC oil-producing business) (Part 5) 1982 Jan 14 1985 Nov 12 2014 Dec 30 4 Secret 282
PREM19/466 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 4) 1980 Sep 4 1981 Sep 15 2011 Dec 30 Secret 256
PREM19/335 Prime Minister (Visits to government departments and regional visits) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 27 1980 Jan 11 2010 Dec 30 Secret 240
PREM19/682 Commonwealth (Heads of Government meeting in Melbourne, September-October 1981: records of meetings; Melbourne Declaration; communique) (Part 4) 1981 Sep 15 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 247
PREM19/1568 Manpower (Employment policy: measures to counter unemployment; education and training for 14 to 18 year olds; Youth Training Scheme (YTS)) (Part 11) 1984 Nov 1 1985 Feb 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 238
PREM19/1100 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office; cable expansion and broadcasting policy; telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; Telecommunications Bill) (Part 6) 1982 Oct 28 1983 Mar 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 284
PREM19/1442 Defence (Arms control) (Part 6A) 1985 Mar 8 1985 Jul 29 2014 Dec 30 3 Secret 231

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