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
PREM19/836 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 14) 1982 Oct 18 1982 Dec 31 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 217
PREM19/500 Ireland (Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland) (Part 2) 1981 Feb 5 1981 Jul 21 2011 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/3177 Soviet Union (Policy towards the Soviet Union: call on Prime Minister by Robert Conquest; Soviet and East European studies) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 13 1990 Jun 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2432 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Poland, November 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Feb 1 1988 Nov 6 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1915 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Italy for Anglo-Italian Summit, Florence, March 1986: administrative arrangements) 1985 May 9 1986 Apr 28 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2597 China (Internal situation in China) (Part 1) 1979 May 30 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1772 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; White Paper on deregulation) (Part 20) 1985 Dec 1 1986 May 30 2014 Dec 30
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
PREM19/756 Foreign policy (Relations with Allies) 1980 Jul 9 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 67
PREM19/421 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 16) 1981 Oct 26 1981 Nov 12 2011 Dec 30 Secret 99
PREM19/105 Regional policy (Review of policy, creation of Enterprize Zones) 1979 May 24 1979 Nov 5 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 163
PREM19/2341 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review) (Part 15) 1988 Oct 3 1988 Nov 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3120 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Jan Steyn, head of the Urban Foundation in South Africa) 1988 May 13 1990 May 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2471 Royal Family (Marriage of the Earl of St Andrews, son of the Duke and Duchess of Kent) 1986 Dec 5 1986 Dec 8 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1692 Defence (Procurement of Weapon Systems (HARM/ALARM air launched missiles): airborne early warning aircraft (British Aerospace Nimrod and Boeing E3A)) (Part 4) 1986 Jun 10 1986 Dec 22 2014 Dec 30

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