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
PREM19/762 Germany (Anglo-German relations; exchanges between Chancellor Schmidt and the Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 6 1982 Feb 19 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 271
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
PREM19/2347 National Health (Primary health care: White Paper 'Promoting Better Health') (Part 2) 1987 Nov 2 1988 Jul 20 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3156 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget) (Part 11) 1990 Apr 2 1990 Dec 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2483 Security (Sir Maurice Oldfield: articles in Irish newspapers; Prime Minister's statement in Parliament regarding allegations in Chapman Pincher's book 'Traitors') 1980 Jan 8 1987 Jul 24 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1698 Diplomatic Misions (Armed protection for British government representatives overseas: carriage of arms by bodyguards of VIP visitors) 1980 Jan 8 1986 Apr 6 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 122
PREM19/6 Civil Service (Manpower Freeze) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 7 1979 Dec 31 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 198
PREM19/1355 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Paul Volcker, Chairman of US Federal Reserve) 1981 Jan 27 1984 Dec 13 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1017 Energy (Future offshore petroleum licensing; seventh and eighth licensing rounds) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 20 1983 Sep 15 2013 Aug 1 Secret 197
PREM19/341 Rhodesia (Oil sanctions against Rhodesia; follow-up to Bingham Report; possible further review; proceedings by Lonrho against Shell and BP) 1979 May 17 1980 Sep 22 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 129
PREM19/2240 Housing (Prime Minister's meeting with Professor Alice Coleman to discuss housing design: subsequent action) 1987 Dec 18 1988 Mar 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2960 Education (Tuition fees for overseas students) 1980 Jun 4 1990 Aug 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1615 Regional Policy (Inner city policy: Urban Programme; illegal rate setting by Liverpool City Council; appointment of commissioners; reorganisation of schools) (Part 5) 1984 Apr 27 1985 Jan 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 334
PREM19/1276 Industrial policy (National Enterprise Board (NEB); Industry Bill; relations between the NEB and the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC); British Technology Group future role; government research and development capability) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 1 1984 Feb 24 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/938 United Nations (North/South Global Negotiations) 1980 Mar 17 1982 Jan 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 116

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