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
PREM19/1311 Manpower (Strategy for industry and employment; reducing the burden of regulation on the economy; Chequers seminar on employment) (Part 1) 1983 Feb 15 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/525 Manpower (Unemployment and young people; industrial training; Employment and Training Bill - Enterprise Zones; measures against unemployment) (Part 4) 1981 Apr 3 1981 Jul 10 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 242
PREM19/232 European Policy (Prime Minister’s meetings with James Scott-Hopkins MEP, leader of European Democratic Group (EDG) in European Parliament, and other EDG MEPs) 1979 Jul 16 1980 Jul 18 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 218
PREM19/3008 Government Machinery (Future of the Crown Agents: guidelines on procedure for tribunals of inquiry) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 18 1990 Jun 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2190 Government Machinery (Transfer of responsibility for policy on legal deposit of books and publications from the Department of Trade and Industry to the Office of Arts and Libraries) 1985 Dec 5 1986 Apr 4 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2876 Tanzania (Visits to the UK of President Julius Nyerere and President Ali Hassan Mwinyi) 1979 Aug 20 1989 Apr 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2059 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 8) 1987 Jan 8 1987 Jul 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1567 Manpower (Strategy for industry and employment: seminar and paper on employment) (Part 3) 1984 Jun 5 1985 Feb 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 416
PREM19/153 Civil Service (Civil Service manpower: action to reduce size of Civil Service and staff costs) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 3 1980 Mar 5 2010 Dec 30 Secret 142
PREM19/1231 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 27) 1984 Aug 1 1984 Oct 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/894 Prime Minister (Closure of British Aluminium Company's smelter at Invergordon; meeting with Lord Plowden; proposals for a restart; proposed new power contract) (Part 1) 1981 Dec 4 1982 Mar 19 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 193
PREM19/781 Government machinery (Future of the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection; departmental arrangements for overseas aid and development: management review of Overseas Development Administration (ODA); review of common services of FCO and ODA) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1982 Jun 16 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 215
PREM19/446 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Ottawa) (Part 7) 1981 Jul 16 1981 Nov 10 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 252
PREM19/2558 Turkey (UK/Turkish relations) 1979 Nov 15 1987 Jul 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2034 Canada (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers, Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Brian Mulroney) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 2 1988 Mar 28 2016 Dec 30

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