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
PREM19/1357 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Group of Eight, representing the construction industry, October 1982; pressure for greater financial assistance from government; complaint about local authority capital underspend) 1982 Jul 22 1983 Nov 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3212 Broadcasting (Conservative Central Office media monitoring: BBC coverage of the American bombing raid on Libya, 15 April 1986) (Part 3 annex) 1986 Sep 20 1986 Oct 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2377 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 15) 1986 May 2 1987 Jan 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2905 Agriculture (Salmonella and eggs) (Part 2) 1990 Apr 6 1990 Nov 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2217 Home Affairs (Capital punishment; sentencing policy) (Part 2) 1986 Mar 7 1987 Feb 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1234 European policy (Elections to European Parliament) (Part 1) 1979 May 16 1984 Mar 19 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1799 Hungary (UK/Hungarian relations) (Part 3) [possible filing error - originally numbered Part 2, but previous file in the series is Part 2] 1985 Jan 16 1985 Nov 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2663 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 42) 1989 Jun 1 1989 Sep 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1992 Transport (Channel Fixed Link (Channel Tunnel); Euroroute) (Part 5) 1986 Feb 3 1986 Jul 16 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2522 Social Services (Unemployment Benefit: availability for work test; restriction of benefit payments to European Community nationals; low income statistics) (Part 5) 1986 Oct 28 1988 Nov 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3098 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 18) 1990 Jan 2 1990 Apr 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2341 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review) (Part 15) 1988 Oct 3 1988 Nov 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1328 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy; gas industry privatisation; Sleipner gas) (Part 9) 1984 Jan 9 1984 Aug 15 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2836 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget) (Part 9) 1989 Jul 4 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2184 Germany (750th anniversary of Berlin in 1987) 1986 Jun 26 1987 May 22 2016 Jul 21

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