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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/997 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 10) 1983 Feb 3 1983 Mar 15 2013 Aug 1 Secret 321
PREM19/662 Broadcasting (Study of impact of television on schoolchildren) 1982 Jan 8 1982 Dec 13 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 100
PREM19/321 Parliament (Defence Committee inquiry into Polaris successor systems) 1980 May 9 1980 Oct 17 2010 Dec 30 Top Secret 14
PREM19/2217 Home Affairs (Capital punishment; sentencing policy) (Part 2) 1986 Mar 7 1987 Feb 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2925 Civil Service (Property Services Agency (PSA) restructuring: privatisation of PSA services) (Part 3) 1988 Mar 4 1990 Jul 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2089 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - Venice, June 1987) (Part 22) 1986 Sep 18 1987 May 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1592 Papua New Guinea (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers Sir Julius Chan, May 1981, and Michael Somare, April 1985: meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Apr 2 1985 Apr 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1253 Government machinery (Organisation of Treasury and Cabinet Office; Management and Personnel Office (MPO); future of Efficiency Unit; abolition of Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS)) (Part 6) 1982 Aug 25 1984 Jan 16 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/918 Security (Activities of Leo Long) 1981 Nov 2 1982 Mar 23 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/582 Royal family (Duke of Edinburgh's statement on nuclear war: correspondence between the Duke and Fenner Brockway, Lord Brockway) 1981 Feb 12 1981 Apr 9 Closed till 2022 Unknown
PREM19/242 Government Machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the scrutiny programme) (Part 4) 1979 Nov 30 1980 Feb 12 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 228
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
PREM19/2092 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - Toronto) (Part 25) 1988 Jun 13 1988 Jun 17 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2742 Industrial Policy (Policy towards employee involvement: profit sharing and share options) 1979 Sep 25 1989 Oct 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1860 National Health (Contraception for the under sixteens) 1980 Apr 30 1986 Feb 27 2015 Dec 30

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