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
PREM19/2590 Austria (Visits to the UK by Austrian Foreign Ministers: Erwin Lanc (November 1983) and Alois Mock (December 1989)) 1983 Sep 2 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2932 Defence (Future UK defence policy) (Part 4) 1989 Apr 11 1990 Jul 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2070 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: European Fighter Aircraft (EFA)) (Part 5) 1987 Jan 6 1988 Mar 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2096 Economic Policy (Public sector pensions; Scott Report on the Value of Pensions) (Part 4) 1982 Jun 4 1988 Jun 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1595 Parliament (Cost of Parliament: report of Select Committee on Procedure (Finance)) 1980 May 16 1985 Apr 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1256 Government machinery (Location of proposed Hazardous Waste Inspectorate) 1982 Oct 1 1984 Oct 26 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/122 South Africa (Plessey Radar contract - poss breach UN embargo) 1979 Aug 1 1979 Sep 10 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 42
PREM19/587 Security (Proposed BBC Panorama programme on British intelligence services) 1980 Jun 18 1981 Feb 3 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 58
PREM19/247 Government Machinery (Ministerial co-ordination of maritime affairs) 1979 May 16 1980 Feb 21 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 14
PREM19/834 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 12) 1982 Jun 11 1982 Jul 15 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 131
PREM19/2747 Ireland (Review of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976: prevention of terrorism legislation) 1980 Jan 31 1989 Jan 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1514 Government Machinery (Advisory Council on Applied Research and Development (ACARD)) (Part 3) 1982 Jan 18 1985 Oct 7 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 259
PREM19/1178 Civil service (Introduction of new technology; computer procurement; agreement with unions) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 28 1984 Dec 20 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 312
PREM19/41 Elections (Briefing for incoming PM) 1979 May 4 1979 May 7 2009 Dec 30 Secret 93
PREM19/507 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach (Charles Haughey); Anglo-Irish joint studies) (Part 3) 1980 Aug 11 1981 Mar 5 2011 Dec 30 Secret 275

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