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
PREM19/254 Home Affairs (Use of immigration rules to prevent scientologists entering UK; lifting of the ban) 1979 Nov 14 1980 Jul 2 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 14
PREM19/2656 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Prime Minister's seminar on the global climate, April 1989) (Part 10) 1989 Apr 21 1989 May 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2119 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure; national school curriculum; financial delegation and opting out) (Part 12) 1987 Mar 2 1987 Apr 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2760 Local Government (Correspondence from Sir John Sainsbury on planning controls: general planning inquiries) (Part 5) 1988 Feb 2 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1883 Parliament (House of Commons Defence Committee: Falklands Inquiry) 1982 Jun 24 1986 Jul 16 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1523 Home Affairs (Open Government: disclosure of official information) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1985 Oct 16 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 256
PREM19/850 Nationalised industries (Nationalised industry policy; financial control; objectives; Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) study of the state monopolies) (Part 6) 1982 Feb 8 1982 Jun 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 260
PREM19/514 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 4) 1980 Sep 29 1981 Jun 2 2011 Dec 30 Secret 235
PREM19/174 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 7) 1980 Sep 19 1980 Dec 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 377
PREM19/1939 Science and Technology (Intellectual property rights and innovation; future of Patent Office; patents for pharmaceutical industry) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 2 1986 Mar 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2630 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 20) 1988 Nov 4 1989 Aug 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1786 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: prison manpower; Scrutiny of the Prison Service) (Part 2) 1983 Mar 9 1986 May 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/94 Ministers (Propriety of appointing Minister likely to become MEP) 1979 May 8 1979 May 16 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 12
PREM19/1443 Defence (Arms control) (Part 6B) 1985 Jan 4 1985 Feb 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1107 Prime Minister (Briefing for incoming Prime Minister from Cabinet Office, Prime Minister's Office and Civil Service Department, May 1979; post-election briefing, June 1983) 1979 Apr 6 1983 Jun 8 2013 Aug 1 Secret 162

Pages