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
PREM19/1195 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 9) 1984 Jan 16 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3 Secret 246
PREM19/2059 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 8) 1987 Jan 8 1987 Jul 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/959 Belize (Future of Belize) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 1 1982 May 4 2013 Aug 1 Secret 252
PREM19/1567 Manpower (Strategy for industry and employment: seminar and paper on employment) (Part 3) 1984 Jun 5 1985 Feb 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 416
PREM19/113 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 8) 1979 Oct 11 1979 Oct 31 2009 Dec 30 Secret 342
PREM19/454 Energy (Proposal for North Sea gas gathering pipeline) 1979 Jul 2 1981 Sep 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 243
PREM19/2906 Angola (Visit to the UK by Angolan Ambassador in Brussels, Fernando Van Dunem, May 1980: possible visits of President dos Santos) 1980 May 8 1990 Mar 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2043 Civil Service (Pay and pensions: geographical pay variations in the non-industrial Civil Service; non-industrial pay negotiations) (Part 16) 1986 Jun 2 1987 Mar 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2712 Government Machinery (The Central Office of Information (COI) and the future of the Information Services: Government advertising expenditure; repayment for services provided by the COI) 1979 May 18 1989 May 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1829 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; release of UK hostages) (Part 4A) 1985 Feb 1 1986 Apr 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/879 Prime Minister (Meeting with delegation of Conservative Friends of Israel) 1980 May 1 1982 Jul 12 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 31
PREM19/1451 Drugs (Drug misuse: trafficking; proposed legislation; Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) report) (Part 2) 1985 Jun 3 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 219
PREM19/1486 European Policy (Enlargement of European Community: applications of Portugal and Spain) (Part 2) 1983 Jun 13 1985 Aug 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 279
PREM19/543 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy; industrial energy pricing) (Part 4) 1981 Mar 13 1981 May 28 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 107
PREM19/1115 Regional policy (Review of regional policy, creation of Enterprise Zones) (Part 4) 1981 Jun 30 1983 Jan 27 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 215

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