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
PREM19/168 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 11) 1980 Oct 22 1980 Nov 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 137
PREM19/2665 European Policy (European Council meeting, Madrid, June 1989) (Part 32) 1989 Jun 7 1989 Jun 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1807 Industrial policy (Proposed government strategy for industry and developments in high technology) 1985 Jul 10 1986 May 9 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1492 European Policy (European Council meeting, Milan, June 1985) (Part 22) 1985 Jun 27 1985 Dec 6 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 247
PREM19/1156 India (Visit to UK by Narasimha Rao, Indian Minister of External Affairs, November 1983: meeting with Prime Minister) 1983 Aug 22 1983 Nov 7 2013 Aug 1 Secret 112
PREM19/2217 Home Affairs (Capital punishment; sentencing policy) (Part 2) 1986 Mar 7 1987 Feb 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/88 Italy (MT’s visits to Italy; Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 20 1979 Oct 8 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 101
PREM19/429 Economic policy (Meetings of National Economic Development Council (NEDC); ministerial membership; Prime Minister's attendance) (Part 2) 1979 Dec 14 1981 Dec 29 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 187
PREM19/2514 Security (Allegations against the Security Service) 1977 Jul 16 1987 Mar 18 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1728 Education (Student loans: review of financial support for students) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 23 1986 May 19 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1412 Aerospace (Future of British Airways (BA): BA privatisation and United States anti-trust suits; Laker Airways liquidation; airports policy) (Part 3) 1984 Nov 2 1985 Apr 3 2014 Dec 30 Secret 289
PREM19/1076 Lebanon (Internal situation; Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 5A) 1983 Nov 1 1983 Dec 4 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 220
PREM19/2602 Civil Service (Proposed BBC TV series on the Civil Service: ITV and radio programmes on Whitehall) 1979 Jul 3 1989 Apr 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/681 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy) (Part 11) 1982 Aug 2 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 181
PREM19/2092 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - Toronto) (Part 25) 1988 Jun 13 1988 Jun 17 2016 Jul 21

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