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
PREM19/2210 Government Machinery (Possible transfer of functions between departments) 1987 Jan 30 1987 May 21 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2908 Arts and Amenities (Future of the British Library: Prime Minister's meetings with Lord Trend and Sir Frederick Dainton and Minister for the Arts, Richard Luce) 1979 Aug 21 1990 May 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1139 South Africa (Prime Minister's talk with Tiny Rowland, Chief Executive of Lonrho, about Namibia and Angola) 1982 Jan 29 1982 Feb 25 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/2097 Economic Policy (Reform of personal taxation: Green Paper on Personal Taxation; draft Taxpayers' Charter) (Part 3) 1987 Feb 6 1987 Mar 18 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1597 Parliament (MPs' pay and pensions) (Part 5) 1982 Oct 15 1985 Mar 26 2014 Dec 30 Secret 253
PREM19/2081 Economic Policy (Contracting-out terms for occupational pension schemes 1983-1988) 1982 Feb 17 1985 Sep 1 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2735 Industrial Policy (Industrial relations law: Employment Bill; proposals for further reform of trade union law) (Part 14) 1987 Oct 2 1989 Mar 20 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/310 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; pay negotiations; contingency planning) (Part 5) 1980 Feb 15 1980 Mar 12 2010 Dec 30 Secret 226
PREM19/1059 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 10) 1983 Nov 1 1983 Dec 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 412
PREM19/1515 Government Machinery (Advisory Council on Applied Research and Development (ACARD): report by Study Group on Exploitable Areas of Science) 1985 Oct 1 1985 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30 Restricted 272
PREM19/722 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 5) 1981 Nov 3 1982 Jul 23 2012 Dec 28 Secret 121
PREM19/2808 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's visits to government departments: consideration of regional visits) (Part 4) 1987 Jul 24 1989 Sep 9 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/570 Prime Minister (Meetings with William McKelvey MP to discuss closure of Armitage Shanks and Blackwood Morton and Sons (BMK) factories in Kilmarnock) 1981 Apr 30 1981 Nov 5 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 61
PREM19/230 European Policy (Designation of European Community) 1980 Jan 4 1980 Feb 7 2010 Dec 30 Restricted 6
PREM19/2591 Botswana (Visits to the UK by President Masire of Botswana to Britain) 1980 Sep 18 1989 Jun 8 2016 Dec 30

Pages