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
PREM19/2903 Agriculture (Nutrition labelling of food: additives in food; environmental labelling of consumer products) 1987 Jul 23 1990 Oct 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2078 Drugs (Drugs misuse: Visit to South America by David Mellor, Minister of State at the Home Office; cooperation between Police and Customs) (Part 3) 1985 Oct 2 1987 May 15 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1584 Nationalised Industries (Nationalised industry legislation: investment and financing review; privatisation; report on state monopolies) (Part 9) 1984 Jun 4 1985 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 299
PREM19/110 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 5) 1979 Aug 9 1979 Aug 30 2009 Dec 30 Secret 355
PREM19/910 Security (Publication of book by Gordon Welchman (former head of Hut 6) called 'The Hut Six Story' on wartime German Enigma cryptanalysis: reactions of US and UK governments) 1982 Apr 30 1982 Jul 27 2012 Dec 28 Secret 8
PREM19/2710 Government Machinery (Departmental responsibility for the National Unemployment Benefit System (NUBS) computer system) 1983 Oct 31 1989 Jul 20 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/574 Prime Minister (Meeting with Dale Campbell-Savours MP regarding closure of Distington Foundry) 1981 Feb 9 1981 Apr 6 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 198
PREM19/451 Egypt (Visits to UK by Vice President Mubarak in June 1979, May 1980 and September 1980: calls on the Prime Minister) 1979 May 29 1980 Sep 8 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 156
PREM19/2063 Defence (Future UK defence policy: merchant shippling and defence needs; NATO maritime rules of engagement) (Part 2) 1983 Nov 1 1987 Jul 27 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/2726 Home Affairs (Sex discrimination) 1985 Aug 6 1989 Feb 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1845 Defence (Defence Budget) (Part 11) 1984 Apr 16 1985 May 21 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1503 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to China, Hong Kong and USA, December 1984: briefing) 1984 Sep 12 1985 Mar 25 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 215
PREM19/30 Economic policy (National Economic Development Council) (NEDC) (Part 1) 1979 May 15 1979 Dec 18 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 219
PREM19/830 Local government (The water industry: structural change; constitution of Welsh Water Authority; review of land drainage and flood protection) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 31 1982 Oct 4 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 240
PREM19/2454 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to NATO Summit, March 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jan 19 1988 Mar 7 2016 Jul 21

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