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
PREM19/2232 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 6) 1985 Jul 2 1987 Jan 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1244 Germany (Anglo-German relations) (Part 2) 1982 Mar 8 1984 Sep 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1810 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach) (Part 13) 1985 Dec 1 1986 Feb 14 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2678 Food (Food safety) (Part 2) 1989 Apr 3 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2025 Broadcasting (Recording and rental of audio and video copyright material; blank tape levy) 1985 Feb 13 1987 Aug 25 2016 Feb 19
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
PREM19/2042 Civil Service (Introduction of new technology: Project Gemstione, electronic mail for Private Offices) (Part 2) 1986 Jul 17 1988 Mar 16 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2876 Tanzania (Visits to the UK of President Julius Nyerere and President Ali Hassan Mwinyi) 1979 Aug 20 1989 Apr 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2196 Government Machinery (Propriety of Ministers arranging briefing for Conservative backbenchers) 1979 Dec 5 1988 Nov 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1778 Government Machinery (Departmental responsibility for national standards and international trade) 1981 Dec 7 1986 Oct 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2628 Economic Policy (The 1989 Budget) (Part 18) 1988 Apr 5 1989 Nov 22 2016 Dec 30

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