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
PREM19/845 Ministers (Lord President's participation in BBC Radio 4 programme on the Privy Council) 1982 Jun 15 1982 Jun 22 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 6
PREM19/1104 Prime Minister (Future of Timex operation in Dundee: Prime Minister's meetings with Gordon Wilson MP and Ernie Ross MP) 1983 Jan 24 1983 May 19 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 124
PREM19/981 Disasters (Collapse of Norwegian oil rig 'Alexander Kielland' in North Sea: PM's message of condolence to Norwegian Prime Minister; representations from families of British victims) 1980 Mar 28 1980 Aug 11 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 43
PREM19/784 Home affairs (Penlee lifeboat disaster fund; guidance for organisers of disaster appeals) 1981 Dec 22 1982 Mar 9 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 43
PREM19/949 Agriculture (Role of Home Grown Cereals Authority; appointment of Chairman) 1983 Aug 16 1983 Nov 11 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 17
PREM19/662 Broadcasting (Study of impact of television on schoolchildren) 1982 Jan 8 1982 Dec 13 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 100
PREM19/8 Civil Service (Stock Criticisms) 1979 Dec 31 1979 Dec 31 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 15
PREM19/663 Broadcasting (BBC TV programme about handling of information by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and media during the Falklands crisis; Prime Minister’s directive that no Ministers or officials should take part) 1982 Aug 6 1982 Aug 9 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 4
PREM19/117 Rhodesia (Lord Boyd's Report on April 1979 election) 1979 May 16 1979 May 16 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 74
PREM19/881 Prime Minister (Meetings with James Craigen MP to discuss closure of Bryant and May and Metal Box factories in Glasgow) 1981 Feb 27 1982 Dec 15 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 49
PREM19/211 Energy (Burgoyne Committee report on offshore safety; transfer of responsibility) 1980 Mar 27 1980 Oct 29 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 24
PREM19/74 Industrial policy (Employee stock ownership - correspondence with US Senator) 1979 Jul 31 1979 Sep 3 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 16
PREM19/1171 Arts and amenities (The Royal Academy Appeal) 1984 Jun 8 1984 Dec 31 2014 Jan 3 Unclassified 44
PREM19/1142 Statistics (International competitiveness and productivity: production statistics and measurement of quality improvements) 1983 Jan 28 1983 Feb 25 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 15
PREM19/727 Economic policy (Taxation of widows and single women aged 60-64: exchanges with Jeff Rooker MP) 1981 Mar 26 1981 Jun 22 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 35

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