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
PREM19/1749 European policy (European Community Budget: UK Presidency; policy after European court judgment on illegally set budget; protection of VAT ceiling and UK abatement) (Part 32) 1986 Oct 1 1986 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2746 Iraq (Iran/Iraq peace talks: future of Royal Navy deployments in the Gulf) (Part 10) 1989 Jan 25 1989 Sep 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2114 Education (Review of dental education; proposed closure of two dental schools) 1988 Jun 29 1988 Aug 9 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1621 Security (Publication of 'British Intelligence and Covert Action' by Jonathan Bloch and Patrick Fitzgerald: security issues; Bloch's UK refugee residency status; protection of intelligence identities) 1983 Mar 9 1985 Oct 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2481 Scotland (Regional policy: industrial policy; draft White Paper on Scottish Enterprise) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 25 1988 Nov 30 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/1344 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office; telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; Telecommunications Bill; draft licence for British Telecom (BT)) (Part 7) 1983 Apr 12 1984 Jan 11 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1852 Ministers (Market and Opinion Research International Ltd (MORI): requests for Geoffrey Finsberg MP and Lord Young to participate in surveys on a range of issues affecting British industry) 1980 Jun 2 1986 Jul 16 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2406 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Edgar Bronfman, President of the World Jewish Congress) 1985 Feb 4 1988 Mar 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2103 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 36) 1986 Oct 1 1987 Jan 16 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2954 Education (General policy on education) (Part 23) 1990 Jan 9 1990 Feb 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2244 Industrial Policy (Possible sale by the Laird Group of Metro-Cammell) 1985 Sep 26 1986 Apr 18 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2966 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; environmental objectives and land use planning) (Part 14) 1990 Feb 6 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2439 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Hanover, June 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Jun 18 1988 Jul 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2698 Germany (Visits to the UK by Governing Mayors of Berlin: Dietrich Stobb, Richard von Weizsacker, Eberhard Diepgen and Walter Momper) 1979 Mar 2 1989 May 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2040 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy; financial management; multi-department review of budgeting; equal opportunities in employment) (Part 20) 1986 Oct 3 1987 Mar 23 2016 Feb 19

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