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 Pagessort ascending Link to selections
PREM19/1088 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 11) 1983 Feb 3 1983 Dec 28 2013 Aug 1 Secret 388
PREM19/1198 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 12) 1984 Mar 1 1984 Mar 14 2014 Jan 3 Secret 388
PREM19/1706 Economic policy (International finance: indebtedness and effect on Western banking system; British exposure) (Part 5) 1985 Jan 1 1986 Feb 5 2014 Dec 30 Secret 387
PREM19/1460 Economic policy (Policy towards privatisation: disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions) (Part 12 1984 Apr 4 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 387
PREM19/1723 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: biased teaching and political indoctrination in schools and colleges; University funding) (Part 7) 1986 May 6 1986 May 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 387
PREM19/1818 Italy (Anglo-Italian relations: Italian political scene; British contribution to Italian earthquake relief, 1980-1981) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 5 1986 Nov 6 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 387
PREM19/1433 Cyprus (Visits to the UK by President Kyprianou: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Dec 10 1985 Jan 14 2014 Dec 30 Secret 386
PREM19/1042 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Rayner Scrutiny Programme 1982/83) (Part 13) 1982 Nov 2 1983 Feb 28 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 386
PREM19/398 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 2 1981 Oct 23 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 386
PREM19/1529 Home affairs (Football hooliganism: behaviour of British football fans abroad; interim report of Popplewell Inquiry into crowd safety and control at sports grounds) (Part 4) 1985 Jul 3 1985 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 385
PREM19/1705 Economic policy (Economic strategy: pay and prices; economic statistics) (Part 26) 1984 Mar 15 1985 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 Secret 385
PREM19/1579 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 16) 1985 Jan 21 1985 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 382
PREM19/1420 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 39) 1984 Nov 1 1985 Apr 25 2014 Dec 30 Secret 382
PREM19/837 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) Unemployment Study) (Part 6) 1981 Nov 2 1982 Mar 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 382
PREM19/1471 Education (Teachers’ pay) (Part 3) 1982 Apr 1 1985 Jan 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 382

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