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
PREM19/421 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 16) 1981 Oct 26 1981 Nov 12 2011 Dec 30 Secret 99
PREM19/422 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 17) 1981 Nov 13 1981 Dec 8 2011 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/423 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 8) 1981 Jan 2 1981 Jun 10 2011 Dec 30 Secret 256
PREM19/424 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 9) 1981 Jun 11 1981 Oct 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 272
PREM19/425 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 10) 1981 Oct 12 1981 Dec 3 2011 Dec 30 Secret 169
PREM19/426 Economic policy (Top Salaries Review Body (TSRB): future role; resignation of Lord Boyle of Handsworth as chairman; appointment of Lord Plowden) 1980 Jun 25 1981 Mar 4 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 96
PREM19/427 Economic policy (Policy towards the pay review bodies: Top Salaries Review Body (TSRB), Armed Forces Pay Review Body (AFPRB), Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB)) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 1 1981 Jan 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 161
PREM19/428 Economic policy (Policy towards the pay review bodies: Top Salaries Review Body (TSRB), Armed Forces Pay Review Body (AFPRB), Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB)) (Part 3) 1981 Feb 2 1981 Nov 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 175
PREM19/429 Economic policy (Meetings of National Economic Development Council (NEDC); ministerial membership; Prime Minister's attendance) (Part 2) 1979 Dec 14 1981 Dec 29 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 187
PREM19/430 Economic policy (Inland Revenue computer project: computerisation of PAYE; future of International Computers Limited (ICL)) 1979 Dec 4 1981 Mar 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 241
PREM19/431 Economic policy (Policy towards small firms) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 8 1981 Apr 7 2011 Dec 30 Secret 233
PREM19/432 Economic policy (Standing Commission on Pay Comparability; abolition of the Commission; future of Pay Review Bodies) (Part 3) 1980 Jul 4 1981 Aug 5 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 117
PREM19/433 Economic policy (Inquiry into Value of Pensions (chairman: Sir Bernard Scott); index linked public sector pensions) (Part 2) 1980 Nov 28 1981 Jun 4 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 246
PREM19/434 Economic policy (Correspondence with Armand Hammer, chairman of Occidental Petroleum; meetings with Prime Minister; proposals for a polyethylene plant in Scotland; export licence for Leicester Codex) 1980 Sep 2 1981 Aug 4 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 157
PREM19/435 Economic policy (Brandt Commission; relations with developing countries; North/South Dialogue; Cancun Summit, Mexico) (Part 2) 1980 Nov 12 1981 Sep 24 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 263

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