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
PREM19/790 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 8 1982 Oct 5 2012 Dec 28 Secret 240
PREM19/454 Energy (Proposal for North Sea gas gathering pipeline) 1979 Jul 2 1981 Sep 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 243
PREM19/139 Anguilla (Legislation for separation of Anguilla from St Kitts-Nevis) 1980 Mar 26 1980 Oct 22 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 20
PREM19/2378 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 16) 1987 Feb 2 1987 Oct 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/364 Security (Policy on interception) (Part 2) 1980 Mar 21 1980 Apr 11 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2511 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 12) 1988 Oct 5 1988 Dec 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1725 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: city technology colleges; Education Bill; academic tenure; education reform; implications of removing responsibility for education from Local Education Authorities (LEAs); future of polytechnics) (Part 9) 1986 Oct 1 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1382 Security (Oleg Bitov, Soviet defector; Bitov's return to Moscow) 1983 Oct 21 1984 Sep 17 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1046 Government machinery (Unpublished reports by Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) on higher education, the black economy, unemployment and the state monopolies) 1982 Aug 26 1983 Jul 1 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 288
PREM19/709 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 13) 1982 Jan 11 1982 Feb 19 2012 Dec 28 Secret 296
PREM19/374 Sport (UK participation in Moscow Olympic Games following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 8 1980 Mar 6 2010 Dec 30 Secret 251
PREM19/58 Germany (Chancellor's visits to UK, Schmidt May 1979) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 May 25 2009 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/2286 Japan (Vredeling Proposal on labour relations in the European Community; trade links between the European Community, USA and Japan) 1983 Dec 2 1988 Mar 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2994 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visits to Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Switzerland, 16-23 September 1990) 1990 Aug 17 1990 Oct 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2222 Home Affairs (Monopolies and Mergers Commission Report on proposed takeover of House of Fraser by Lonrho) 1987 Jan 12 1987 Oct 28 Retained Closed for 40 years

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