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? File classificationsort ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/166 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 9) 1980 Mar 3 1980 Jul 2 2010 Dec 30 Secret 184
PREM19/1646 Soviet Union (Prime Minister's visits to Moscow for the funerals of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko in February 1984 and March 1985 respectively) 1984 Feb 13 1985 Mar 15 2014 Dec 30 Secret 295
PREM19/1095 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; plant closures; future of Ian MacGregor, chairman of British Steel Corporation (BSC)) (Part 12) 1982 Dec 1 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 368
PREM19/807 Industrial policy (UK newsprint production: closure of Bowater's mill at Ellesmere Port) 1980 Jul 28 1982 Dec 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 254
PREM19/259 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland (BL)) Part 3 1980 Mar 11 1980 Apr 17 2010 Dec 30 Secret 245
PREM19/29 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 11 2009-12-30 Secret 347
PREM19/971 Cyprus (Internal situation; UK/Cypriot relations) (Part 1) 1980 Feb 29 1983 Nov 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 355
PREM19/137 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 4) 1980 Feb 28 1980 Apr 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/400 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; Civil Service pay dispute; industrial action) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 2 1981 Apr 15 2011 Dec 30 Secret 211
PREM19/1709 Economic policy (Reform of personal taxation: draft Green Paper by Chancellor of the Exchequer; 'historic papers' on Sir Geoffrey Howe's proposals in 1982-1983 for family taxation reform) 1985 Sep 27 1985 Dec 3 2014 Dec 30 Secret 236
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
PREM19/493 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland (BL)) (Part 5) 1981 Jan 22 1981 Oct 31 2011 Dec 30 Secret 308
PREM19/868 Parliament (Parliamentary discussion of intelligence matters) 1982 Dec 15 1982 Dec 23 2013 Sep 24 Secret 10
PREM19/1405 USA (Internal political situation; 1980 and 1984 Presidential election campaigns) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1984 Nov 7 2014 Jan 3 2 Secret 457
PREM19/331 Poland (Internal situation; relations with UK) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 22 1980 Nov 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 227

Pages