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 Pages Link to selectionssort descending
PREM19/957 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (chaired by Lord Franks): documentation used by Prime Minister in preparation for 25-26 January 1983 debate in House of Commons on Committee's report) 1983 Jan 14 1983 Jan 26 2013 Aug 1 Secret 140
PREM19/958 Arts and amenities (Policy towards the arts; private sponsorship; financial scrutiny) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 26 1983 Nov 23 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 288
PREM19/960 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; development of cable systems and services; broadcasting policy) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 25 1983 May 5 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 297
PREM19/961 Cabinet (Brevity in recording of Cabinet and Committee minutes; guidance on Cabinet papers) 1979 May 21 1983 Jun 17 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 9
PREM19/963 China (Sino/British relations; defence sales) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1983 Nov 21 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 341
PREM19/964 Civil service (Manpower reductions in the Cabinet Office) 1979 Jul 20 1983 May 9 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 59
PREM19/965 Civil service (Lecture on the Civil Service given by Sir John Hoskyns) 1982 Oct 15 1982 Dec 9 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 55
PREM19/966 Civil service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs) (Part 2) 1981 Aug 19 1983 Sep 19 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 373
PREM19/967 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; policy on Civil Service numbers, Financial Management Initiative; response to Select Committee report on efficiency and effectiveness in Civil Service; the extension of unified grading; obligations of managers) (Part 12) 1982 Dec 2 1983 May 24 2013 Aug 1
PREM19/968 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; Financial Management Initiative - draft White Paper; policy on Civil Service numbers; personnel work in Civil Service; the extension of unified grading) (Part 13) 1983 May 26 1983 Sep 20 2013 Aug 1 Secret 245
PREM19/969 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Delhi, November 1983: policy) (Part 5) 1983 Jul 25 1983 Nov 18 2013 Aug 1 5 Secret 352
PREM19/970 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Delhi, November 1983: policy) (Part 6) 1983 Nov 19 1983 Nov 26 2013 Aug 1 Secret 232
PREM19/971 Cyprus (Internal situation; UK/Cypriot relations) (Part 1) 1980 Feb 29 1983 Nov 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 355
PREM19/973 Defence (Arms control) (Part 4) 1983 Jan 25 1983 Nov 23 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret UK Eyes A 261
PREM19/974 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: HARM/ALARM anti-radar missiles; rising cost of defence equipment; competition in defence procurement) (Part 1) 1983 Mar 29 1983 Nov 23 2013 Aug 1 Secret 291

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