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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1060 India (Orissa steel plant) 1982 Jan 11 1983 Aug 5 2013 Aug 1 Secret 106
PREM19/320 Pakistan (Visit to UK by Agha Shahi, Foreign Minister, June 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 Jun 12 1980 Jun 19 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 70
PREM19/2302 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 34) 1987 Dec 3 1988 Mar 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3017 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; value for money seminars; Next Steps initiative) (Part 32) 1989 Nov 6 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2274 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish Summits; Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 19) 1988 May 3 1988 Dec 21 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1657 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington and New York, February 1981) (Part 2) 1981 Feb 20 1985 Oct 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1316 Ministers (Ministers’ outside interests; position of Ministers on appointment to office; membership at Lloyds; Questions of Procedure for Ministers) (Part 1) 1979 May 9 1984 Sep 17 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/241 Government Machinery (Responsibility for science matters; future of Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development (ACARD)) (Part 1) 1979 May 16 1980 Feb 28 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 147
PREM19/3117 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Hartley Booth and Lew Wasserman: British Urban Development Ltd; proposed MCA theme park and film studio project at Rainham, Essex) 1989 May 15 1990 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2195 Government Machinery (Proposed London Weekend Television (LWT) series on the Civil Service and the British system of government) 1985 Mar 29 1988 Apr 15 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2883 Trade (Consumer safety) 1984 Feb 6 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2065 Defence (UK strategic nuclear deterrent) (Part 7) 1985 Feb 1 1987 Jun 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1573 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): annual report; restrictions on NHS prescribing; limited list of drugs; health charges) (Part 4) 1984 Sep 4 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 319
PREM19/1236 Foreign policy (Meeting of South Pacific Forum; correspondence with Bob Hawke, Prime Minister of Australia, on a single regional organisation in South Pacific) 1980 Jul 17 1984 Apr 24 2014 Jan 3
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

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