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? File classificationsort ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/249 Government Machinery (Future of Civil Service Department; integration with the Treasury; Select Committee consideration) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 14 1980 Jul 4 2010 Dec 30 Secret 215
PREM19/595 Security (Leak to 'The Times' of Cabinet proceedings on public expenditure) 1981 Oct 21 1981 Oct 28 2011 Dec 30 Secret 18
PREM19/127 United States (MT visit to Washington - policy, December 1979) 1979 Nov 8 1979 Dec 21 2009 Dec 30 Secret 301
PREM19/815 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 11) 1982 Feb 4 1982 Jun 30 2012 Dec 28 7 Secret 133
PREM19/689 Defence (Review of home defence) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 6 1982 Mar 3 2012 Dec 28 Secret 99
PREM19/441 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 8) 1981 Mar 18 1981 Aug 17 2011 Dec 30 Secret 337
PREM19/1126 Saudi Arabia (Saudi/UK relations; internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 9 1983 Dec 23 2013 Aug 1 7 Secret 342
PREM19/998 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 10) 1982 Feb 1 1983 Oct 10 2013 Aug 1 Secret 272
PREM19/188 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Venice) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 3 1980 Jun 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 265
PREM19/1219 European policy (Presidency of European Commission; UK Commissioners; official posts in Commission; European Secretariat in Cabinet Office) (Part 1) 1980 May 29 1984 Feb 6 2014 Jan 3 Secret 287
PREM19/1561 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 27) 1985 Jun 3 1985 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 380
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
PREM19/282 Ireland (Hunger strike at Maze Prison, Northern Ireland; the ‘Dirty Protest’) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 15 1980 Dec 10 2010 Dec 30 2 Secret 245
PREM19/629 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 18) 1982 May 18 1982 May 21 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 276
PREM19/970 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Delhi, November 1983: policy) (Part 6) 1983 Nov 19 1983 Nov 26 2013 Aug 1 Secret 232

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