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 classification Pages Link to selectionssort ascending
PREM19/776 Government machinery (Civil Contingencies Unit reports; emergency powers legislation; withstanding strikes in key sectors of the economy) (Part 2) 1981 Mar 2 1982 Sep 29 2012 Dec 28 Secret 86
PREM19/775 Government machinery (Customs facilities at Wick Airport) 1982 Apr 28 1982 Dec 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 75
PREM19/774 Government machinery (Select Committee proposal for new Ministry for the arts, heritage and tourism) 1982 Dec 3 1982 Dec 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 6
PREM19/773 Government machinery ('Improving management effectiveness in Government', memorandum by Management Consultants Association; review of financial control in Department of Industry; employment of consultants in government) 1981 Nov 17 1982 Mar 29 2012 Dec 28 Restricted 78
PREM19/772 Government machinery (Review of supporting services in research and development and allied scientific establishments) 1981 Jan 8 1982 Jul 26 2012 Dec 28 Restricted 90
PREM19/771 Government buildings (Building of an international conference centre on Broad Sanctuary in Westminster; redevelopment of Richmond Yard/Bridge Street site) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 1 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 8 Secret 215
PREM19/770 Gibraltar (Policy) (Part 2) 1982 Feb 11 1982 Oct 28 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 189
PREM19/769 Gibraltar (Policy) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 19 1982 Jan 20 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 162
PREM19/768 Germany (Removal of the limitations on Federal German naval shipbuilding and armaments) 1980 Jul 11 1982 Sep 6 2012 Dec 28 Secret 23
PREM19/767 Germany (Visit of Dr Ernst Albrecht, Minister-President of Lower Saxony: call on the Prime Minister) 1980 May 14 1980 Jul 11 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 24
PREM19/766 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Schmidt in Bonn, November 1981) (Part 3) 1982 Oct 2 1982 Nov 19 2012 Dec 28 Secret 68
PREM19/765 Germany (Chancellor Kohl's visit to the UK, October 1982: meetings with the Prime Minister) (Part 6) 1982 Oct 8 1982 Nov 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 90
PREM19/764 Germany (Chancellor Schmidt's visit to the UK, March 1982: meetings with the Prime Minister) (Parts 4 & 5) 1982 Mar 1 1982 May 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 242
PREM19/763 Germany (Chancellor Schmidt's visit to the UK, May 1981: meetings with the Prime Minister) (Part 3) 1980 Nov 13 1982 Feb 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 215
PREM19/762 Germany (Anglo-German relations; exchanges between Chancellor Schmidt and the Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 6 1982 Feb 19 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 271

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