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
PREM19/688 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 8) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Jun 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 123
PREM19/347 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 17) 1980 Mar 21 1980 Aug 11 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 194
PREM19/2248 Industrial Policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 12) 1985 Mar 6 1987 Jan 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2968 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Environment White Paper) (Part 16) 1990 May 1 1990 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1622 Security (Judgement by European Court of Human Rights on Malone case: proposed legislation on interception of communications) 1980 Sep 29 1984 Jul 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1282 Industrial policy (Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development (ACARD) report on new opportunities in manufacturing) 1984 Jul 24 1984 Sep 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/268 Industrial policy (Consultations with Trades Union Congress (TUC) on economic strategy; Prime Minister’s meetings with TUC representatives) (Part 3) 1980 Aug 20 1980 Oct 16 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 227
PREM19/2786 Nationalised Industries (Nationalised industries pay) 1980 Sep 4 1989 May 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2151 European Policy (Community Trade Marks Office) (Part 1) 1983 Sep 23 1987 Apr 6 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2785 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 15) 1988 Oct 4 1989 Jul 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1943 Security (Security of economic statistics) 1979 Jun 5 1986 Aug 20 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1537 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland: privatisation of UniPart) (Part 8) 1984 Apr 2 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 308
PREM19/1201 Economic policy (International banking system) (Part 4) 1984 Mar 5 1984 Dec 31 2014 Jan 3 Secret 464
PREM19/528 Mexico (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister, Dr Jorge Castadena, March 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Jan 19 1981 May 21 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 24
PREM19/188 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Venice) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 3 1980 Jun 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 265

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