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
PREM19/1408 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald; Anglo-Irish Summits) (Part 7) 1983 Nov 1 1984 Nov 23 2014 Jan 3 Secret 229
PREM19/735 Energy (Energy policy; nuclear power policy; fast reactor policy; Sizewell Inquiry; oil depletion policy) (Part 7) 1982 Jan 26 1982 Oct 14 2012 Dec 28 Secret 255
PREM19/400 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; Civil Service pay dispute; industrial action) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 2 1981 Apr 15 2011 Dec 30 Secret 211
PREM19/2314 Manpower (Rayner Scrutiny of payment of benefits to unemployed people: joint study by Department of Employment and Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS); taxing of Unemployment Benefit) (Part 2) 1982 Jun 4 1988 Mar 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3045 Iraq (UK/Iraq relations) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 5 1990 Mar 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2325 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 15) 1986 Jun 3 1987 Feb 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1669 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 4) 1986 Jan 25 1986 Feb 28 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1328 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy; gas industry privatisation; Sleipner gas) (Part 9) 1984 Jan 9 1984 Aug 15 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/990 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 8) 1983 Oct 3 1983 Dec 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 153
PREM19/315 Nationalised Industries (Correspondence with Alan Newman Ltd about contract for conversion of liner into floating hotel: negative response from Harland and Wolff and British Shipbuilders) 1980 Jul 2 1980 Aug 4 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 14
PREM19/2208 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 28) 1988 Aug 5 1988 Nov 29 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2904 Agriculture (Salmonella and eggs) (Part 1) 1988 Dec 8 1990 Feb 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2079 Economic Policy (Budget) (Part 16) 1986 May 12 1987 Sep 4 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1585 Nationalised Industries (Nationalised industry legislation: investment and financing review; privatisation; report on state monopolies) (Part 9) 1984 May 29 1985 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 395
PREM19/1246 Germany (Visit to UK by former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, October 1983; meeting with Prime Minister) 1982 Nov 11 1984 Jan 5 2014 Jan 3

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