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
PREM19/1838 Local Government (Water industry: structural change) (Part 3) 1985 Dec 2 1986 Apr 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1496 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) (Part 1) 1985 Dec 13 1985 Mar 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/196 Economic policy (Liability to tax of UK resident beneficiaries of overseas trusts: the Vestey case, November 1979) 1980 Oct 7 1980 Nov 21 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 20
PREM19/1160 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; annexes to report by Professor Patrick Minford, 'UK unemployment - analysis and policy proposals') (Part 8C) 1982 Sep 6 1983 Jan 29 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 355
PREM19/2466 Regional Policy (Inner Cities Initiative: progress on 'Action for Cities'; Teesside development initiative; access to Cabinet and Prime Minister's office papers by National Audit Office for study on urban regeneration; Cardiff Bay Barrage) (Part 14) 1988 Jun 1 1988 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1984 Trade (Commodity policy: International Tin Agreement and International Tin Council; implications of difficulties in tin market for Cornish tin mines) (Part 1) 1985 Jan 29 1986 Jan 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2663 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 42) 1989 Jun 1 1989 Sep 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/116 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 11) 1979 Dec 2 1979 Dec 21 2009 Dec 30 Secret 443
PREM19/457 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 10) 1980 Sep 23 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 191
PREM19/1416 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 1B) 1985 Dec 10 1985 Dec 27 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 213
PREM19/1080 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 16) 1983 Jul 4 1983 Sep 16 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 325
PREM19/743 European policy (European Monetary System (EMS)) (Part 1) 1979 May 7 1982 Feb 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 252
PREM19/2379 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 17) 1987 Nov 9 1988 Sep 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/372 Soviet Union (Political and propaganda use made by USSR of Moscow Olympic Games) 1980 Apr 22 1980 Apr 26 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2512 Security (Sunday Times articles on the death of Stephen Ward and his association with M15 at the time of the Profumo affair: book by Phillip Knightley and Caroline Kennedy 'An Affair of State') 1982 Nov 29 1982 Nov 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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