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 filesort descending File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/391 Arts and amenities (Future of the Wernher Collection at Luton Hoo) 1980 May 20 1981 Feb 2 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 31
PREM19/392 Australia (Transfer of uranium enrichment technology to Australia) 1980 Jul 3 1981 Apr 29 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 27
PREM19/393 Brazil (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister, Ramiro Saraiva Guerreiro, December 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Sep 9 1981 Dec 1 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 15
PREM19/394 Broadcasting (BBC External Services) 1979 May 25 1981 Oct 22 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 203
PREM19/395 Broadcasting (Legislation on broadcasting; fourth TV channel; Welsh language broadcasting (threatened hunger strike by former Plaid Cymru MP Gwynfor Evans); renewal of BBC Charter) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 16 1981 Jun 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 172
PREM19/396 Cabinet (Questions of Procedure for Ministers: revision and reissue; disclosure of structure and details of Cabinet committees) 1979 May 4 1981 Sep 23 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 171
PREM19/397 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 2) 1980 Nov 11 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 4 Secret 252
PREM19/398 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 2 1981 Oct 23 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 386
PREM19/399 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; review of pay research system; staffing problems in London) (Part 2) 1980 May 16 1981 Feb 25 2011 Dec 30 Secret 178
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
PREM19/401 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; Civil Service pay dispute; industrial action; proposal for independent inquiry) (Part 4) 1981 Apr 16 1981 May 18 2011 Dec 30 Secret 252
PREM19/402 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; Civil Service pay dispute; industrial action; revised terms of reference for proposed independent inquiry) (Part 5) 1981 May 19 1981 Jun 8 2011 Dec 30 Secret 189
PREM19/403 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; Civil Service pay dispute; industrial action; membership of independent inquiry;) (Part 6) 1981 Jun 9 1981 Jul 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 235
PREM19/404 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; Civil Service pay dispute; industrial action; establishment of independent inquiry) (Part 7) 1981 Jul 10 1981 Nov 5 2011 Dec 30 Secret 347
PREM19/405 Civil service (Cynon Valley Borough Council dispute with Welsh Office over allocation of funds for highway maintenance) 1981 Feb 9 1981 Jun 10 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 24

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