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 descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2557 Transport (Policy on roads: White Paper; review of the roads programme) (Part 3) 1986 Dec 12 1988 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1336 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 11) 1983 Jul 1 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1685 Civil Service (Pay and pensions: pay dispute; review of early retirement arrangements) (Part 15) 1985 Apr 7 1986 May 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3147 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to the Soviet Union, June 1990: administrative arrangements) 1989 Oct 6 1990 Jun 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2352 Nationalised Industries (Coal mines) (Part 20) 1986 Aug 4 1987 Oct 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1556 Japan (Prime Minister's visit to Japan, September 1982) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 20 1985 Apr 16 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2046 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, October 1987) (Part 11) 1986 Sep 4 1987 Oct 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2878 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy) (Part 5) 1987 Nov 2 1990 Dec 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2197 Government Machinery (Reduction in number of circulars from government departments to local authorities) 1979 May 8 1987 Jul 6 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1779 Government Machinery (Proposed merger of General Electric Company (GEC) and Plessey: possible referral to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission) 1986 Jan 17 1986 Jun 10 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2629 Economic Policy (International finance: indebtedness of various countries) (Part 7) 1987 Nov 9 1989 May 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1962 Social Services (Assistance with fuel costs; alternatives to electricity discount scheme; home insulation scheme; severe weather payments) (Part 1) 1979 May 21 1986 Feb 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2458 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Turkey, April 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jan 5 1988 May 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2315 Manpower (Special employment measures: employment and training programmes and organisation) (Part 15) 1986 Nov 4 1987 Apr 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1308 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 23) 1984 Oct 2 1984 Nov 30 2014 Jan 3

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