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
PREM19/546 Nationalised industries (Privatisation) (Part 3) 1980 Oct 16 1981 Feb 23 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 146
PREM19/2040 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy; financial management; multi-department review of budgeting; equal opportunities in employment) (Part 20) 1986 Oct 3 1987 Mar 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/206 Energy (Future of British National Oil Corporation (BNOC); proposed sale of British Petroleum (BP) assets; Petroleum and Submarine Pipeline Bill) (Part 3) 1979 Dec 27 1980 Jun 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 198
PREM19/2704 Government Machinery (Monopolies and mergers) (Part 4) 1989 Mar 8 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1771 Government Machinery (Review of administrative forms) (Part 1) 1980 Aug 14 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1428 Civil Service (Pay and pensions: performance related pay) (Part 14) 1984 Mar 2 1985 Feb 25 2014 Dec 30 Secret 274
PREM19/1043 Government machinery (Special advisers; appointment procedure; pay) (Part 2) 1980 Oct 10 1983 Dec 22 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 201
PREM19/706 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 8) 1982 Jul 2 1982 Oct 27 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 136
PREM19/2660 Environmental Affairs (Parliament Square improvements) (Part 12) 1987 Jul 15 1989 May 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2414 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Lord Weinstock) 1983 Jan 28 1987 Jun 12 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1894 Prime Minister (Meeting with Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) and Tom Clarke MP to discuss future of Ravenscraig and Gartcosh steel mills) 1985 Jul 19 1986 Jan 29 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2549 Syria (Internal situation: UK/Syrian relations; Syrian involvement in the Hindawi affair and other terrorist activities; diplomatic and commercial measures by UK, USA, Canada, and European Community states) 1979 May 7 1987 Jul 27 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/125 Transport (Consumers & nationalized transport industries) 1979 Jun 7 1979 Jul 3 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 17
PREM19/1691 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems (HARM/ALARM air launched missiles)) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 1 1986 May 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1348 Prime Minister (Study on future of welfare state by Lord Vaizey and others; meeting with Prime Minister) 1983 Nov 28 1984 Feb 2 2014 Jan 3

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