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
PREM19/768 Germany (Removal of the limitations on Federal German naval shipbuilding and armaments) 1980 Jul 11 1982 Sep 6 2012 Dec 28 Secret 23
PREM19/433 Economic policy (Inquiry into Value of Pensions (chairman: Sir Bernard Scott); index linked public sector pensions) (Part 2) 1980 Nov 28 1981 Jun 4 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 246
PREM19/2255 Industrial Policy (Future of the Rover Group) (Part 13) 1987 Jan 5 1987 Sep 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2976 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 46) 1990 May 1 1990 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2179 Foreign Policy (Summary notes on Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) Assessments) (Part 2) 1986 Sep 5 1987 Dec 18 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1177 Civil service (Pay and pensions; report of Megaw Committee on pay and conditions; pay negotiations) (Part 13) 1982 Nov 19 1984 Jan 17 2014 Jan 3 Secret 239
PREM19/1638 Social Services (Reform of social security: pensions, housing benefit and supplementary benefit; child support) (Part 1) 1984 Dec 28 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 232
PREM19/688 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 8) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Jun 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 123
PREM19/347 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 17) 1980 Mar 21 1980 Aug 11 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 194
PREM19/309 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; contingency planning) (Part 4) 1980 Jan 22 1980 Feb 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 207
PREM19/2813 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's attendance at the International Democrat Union (IDU) Conference in Tokyo, September 1989, and meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, September 1989: administrative arrangements) 1988 Dec 14 1989 Nov 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2161 European Policy (European Council meeting, Rhodes, December 1988) (Part 30) 1988 Oct 24 1988 Dec 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2801 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM)) 1986 Sep 5 1990 Jan 9 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1433 Cyprus (Visits to the UK by President Kyprianou: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Dec 10 1985 Jan 14 2014 Dec 30 Secret 386
PREM19/2016 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 41) 1986 Jun 26 1987 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21

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