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
PREM19/2297 Libya (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 7) 1986 May 1 1987 Feb 27 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1667 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 2) 1985 Dec 28 1986 Jan 10 2016 Feb 19 Secret 413
PREM19/1326 Nationalised industries (Shipbuilding policy; prospects for British Shipbuilders) (Part 6) 1984 Jan 27 1984 May 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/988 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 6) 1982 Jul 26 1983 Jan 18 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 268
PREM19/653 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 11) 1982 Oct 1 1982 Dec 23 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 146
PREM19/313 Nationalised Industries (Water industry pay; contingency planning) (Part 7) 1979 Jun 4 1980 Nov 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 55
PREM19/3082 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 29) 1990 Sep 14 1990 Sep 29 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/2206 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 26) 1988 Jan 14 1988 Feb 26 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2902 Agriculture (Discussion paper by Consultative Board of the Joint Consultative Organisation for Research and Development in Agriculture and Food: correspondence with Lord Rothschild; Priorities Board for Research and Development in Agriculture and Food) (Part 1) 1983 Jun 20 1990 May 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2077 Downing Street (Staffing of the Private Office: review of out-of-hours watch arrangements) (Part 1) 1984 May 24 1988 Oct 4 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1583 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity policy: gas industry privatisation; industrial energy policy) (Part 11) 1985 Jun 3 1985 Nov 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 231
PREM19/909 Soviet Union (Soviet General Staff Command exercise) 1982 Jun 24 1982 Jul 15 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 6
PREM19/573 Prime Minister (Meeting with Lawrence Cunliffe MP about possible closure of David Brown Tractors Ltd and unemployment in Leigh) 1981 Oct 28 1981 Nov 18 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 26
PREM19/233 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1980 Jan 31 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 260
PREM19/2587 Arts and Amenities (Preservation of the Rose Theatre) 1989 May 9 1989 Jun 12 2016 Dec 30

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