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
PREM19/406 Civil service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs) (Part 1) 1980 Feb 8 1981 Jul 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 288
PREM19/407 Civil service (Pay of professional, technological and scientific grades: possibility of industrial action; review of Scientific Civil Service) 1979 Jun 15 1981 Jul 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 282
PREM19/408 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy; Sir Derek Rayner's recommendations for reforms; Civil Service numbers and costs; performance related pay) (Part 7) 1980 Nov 18 1981 Mar 6 2011 Dec 30 Secret 224
PREM19/409 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy; Sir Derek Rayner's recommendations for reforms; Civil Service numbers and costs; chain of command review; efficiency) (Part 8) 1981 Mar 9 1981 Sep 28 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 288
PREM19/410 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Melbourne, September-October 1981: procedure; attendance; agenda) (Part 3) 1981 May 19 1981 Sep 14 2011 Dec 30 Secret 200
PREM19/411 Defence (Sale of tanks to Jordan; future tank policy; future of Vickers Ltd Elswick works) 1979 May 31 1981 Apr 1 2011 Dec 30 Secret 159
PREM19/412 Defence (Modernisation of Theatre Nuclear Forces (TNF) in Europe; proposed basing of United States Ground Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCM) in the UK) (Part 2) 1979 Dec 3 1981 Mar 10 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 106
PREM19/413 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 1) 1980 Sep 2 1981 Dec 15 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 176
PREM19/414 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 4) 1980 Oct 17 1981 Mar 6 2011 Dec 30 Secret 240
PREM19/415 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 5) 1981 Mar 11 1981 May 17 2011 Dec 30 Secret 397
PREM19/416 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 6) 1981 May 18 1981 Jun 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 227
PREM19/417 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 3) 1980 Jun 10 1981 Nov 12 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 276
PREM19/418 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 13) 1980 Nov 25 1981 Feb 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 575
PREM19/419 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 14) 1981 Feb 17 1981 Sep 16 2011 Dec 30 Secret 173
PREM19/420 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 15) 1981 Oct 9 1981 Oct 23 2011 Dec 30 Secret 166

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