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 namesort ascending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/671 Civil service (Dispersal programme) (Part 2) 1979 Oct 19 1982 Jun 4 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 244
PREM19/405 Civil service (Cynon Valley Borough Council dispute with Welsh Office over allocation of funds for highway maintenance) 1981 Feb 9 1981 Jun 10 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 24
PREM19/2038 Civil Service (Contracts of employment; possible legislation to enable civil servants to be laid off without pay; Civil Service nationality rules; responsibility for discipline in the Civil Service) 1980 Jun 27 1987 Jul 7 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/154 Civil Service (Civil Service manpower: action to reduce size of Civil Service and staff costs; Civil Service pay; early retirement) (Part 4) 1980 Mar 5 1980 Jul 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 273
PREM19/153 Civil Service (Civil Service manpower: action to reduce size of Civil Service and staff costs) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 3 1980 Mar 5 2010 Dec 30 Secret 142
PREM19/1687 Civil Service (Civil servants' outside interests: acceptance of non-executive directorships; possible publication of essay by Michael Quinlan on the ethics of nuclear deterrence) 1984 Jan 31 1986 Aug 5 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/7 Civil Service (Christmas Message) 1979 Nov 20 1979 Nov 26 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 4
PREM19/146 Civil Service (Cabinet Office Whitley Council request for meeting, concerning pay, with Prime Minister) 1980 Mar 21 1980 Dec 3 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 18
PREM19/678 Civil service (BBC Radio 4 series on the Civil Service; participation by Ministers and senior officials) 1981 Feb 9 1982 Jul 5 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 32
PREM19/1429 Civil Service (Assassination and death in service: policy on compensation for civil servants' families) 1984 May 21 1985 Nov 20 2014 Dec 30 24 Confidential 110
PREM19/2600 Civil Service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs: Andrew Report on the 'Review of Government Legal Services') (Part 4) 1989 Jan 13 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2037 Civil Service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs) (Part 3) 1986 Aug 12 1988 Dec 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/966 Civil service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs) (Part 2) 1981 Aug 19 1983 Sep 19 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 373
PREM19/406 Civil service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs) (Part 1) 1980 Feb 8 1981 Jul 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 288
PREM19/1426 China (Visit to UK by Chinese Prime Minister, Zhao Ziyang, June 1985: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1982 Jul 19 1985 Jun 21 2014 Dec 30

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