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
PREM19/4 Civil Service (Dispersal) (Part 1) 1979 May 22 1979 Oct 15 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 109
PREM19/1353 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Barry Jones MP about British Aerospace (BAe) redundancies in Broughton; launch aid for Airbus A320) 1984 Jan 16 1984 Feb 6 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1015 Energy (Government evidence to inquiry on coal mining in Vale of Belvoir) 1979 Jul 16 1983 Mar 4 2013 Aug 1 Secret 133
PREM19/680 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy) (Part 10) 1982 May 12 1982 Jul 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 314
PREM19/339 Prime Minister (Prime Minister’s visit to Dublin, December 1980: administrative arrangements) 1980 Sep 11 1980 Dec 19 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 58
PREM19/2238 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 12) 1988 May 3 1988 Jul 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2956 Education (General policy on education) (Part 25) 1990 Apr 2 1990 May 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1613 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Conservative Friends of Israel) 1985 Jun 19 1985 Oct 9 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 29
PREM19/1271 Hungary (UK/Hungarian relations) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 24 1984 Jan 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/936 Transport (Armitage Report on Lorries, People and the Environment; draft White Paper) (Part 1) 1979 May 15 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 197
PREM19/600 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, February 1981: meeting with President Reagan) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 2 1981 Feb 28 2011 Dec 30 Secret 311
PREM19/260 Industrial policy (Future of National Enterprise Board (NEB); disposal of shareholdings; Ferranti) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1980 Jun 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 150
PREM19/2687 Foreign Policy (Correspondence with and about George Soros: economic proposals concerning the Soviet Union and Poland) 1987 Sep 3 1989 Sep 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2140 Energy (Release of 30 year old records about the Windscale fire in 1957) 1987 Feb 23 1987 Oct 2 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2770 Malaysia (UK/Malaysia relations: meetings with Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia) (Part 3) 1987 Aug 17 1989 Oct 29 2016 Dec 30

Pages