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 classificationsort ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/675 Civil service (Pay and pensions) (Part 11) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Jul 7 2012 Dec 28 Secret 172
PREM19/1709 Economic policy (Reform of personal taxation: draft Green Paper by Chancellor of the Exchequer; 'historic papers' on Sir Geoffrey Howe's proposals in 1982-1983 for family taxation reform) 1985 Sep 27 1985 Dec 3 2014 Dec 30 Secret 236
PREM19/206 Energy (Future of British National Oil Corporation (BNOC); proposed sale of British Petroleum (BP) assets; Petroleum and Submarine Pipeline Bill) (Part 3) 1979 Dec 27 1980 Jun 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 198
PREM19/552 Netherlands (Prime Minister's visit to The Hague, February 1981; meeting with Prime Minister , Dries van Agt) 1980 Dec 23 1981 Feb 13 2011 Dec 30 Secret 92
PREM19/1580 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 17) 1985 Mar 1 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 372
PREM19/80 Ireland (Northern Ireland situation) (Part 1) 1979 May 2 1979 Aug 24 2009 Dec 30 2 Secret 235
PREM19/427 Economic policy (Policy towards the pay review bodies: Top Salaries Review Body (TSRB), Armed Forces Pay Review Body (AFPRB), Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB)) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 1 1981 Jan 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 161
PREM19/768 Germany (Removal of the limitations on Federal German naval shipbuilding and armaments) 1980 Jul 11 1982 Sep 6 2012 Dec 28 Secret 23
PREM19/1453 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 32) 1985 May 10 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 241
PREM19/987 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 25) 1983 Nov 1 1983 Nov 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 312
PREM19/647 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 5) 1982 May 5 1982 May 14 2012 Dec 28 Secret 138
PREM19/1332 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 11) 1984 Jul 19 1984 Aug 31 2014 Jan 3 3 Secret 304
PREM19/175 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 11 1980 Feb 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/521 Luxembourg (Visit to UK by Gaston Thorn (Foreign Minister of Luxembourg and President-designate of the European Commission), October 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1979 Jun 26 1981 Oct 14 2011 Dec 30 Secret 74
PREM19/1206 Economic policy (G7 Summit - London) (Part 14) 1983 Jan 28 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3 Secret 327

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