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
PREM19/2989 European Policy (UK air transport policy in Europe) 1979 Nov 8 1990 May 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2291 Legal Procedure (Jury vetting) 1979 Sep 20 1985 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1846 Defence (Policing of demonstrations at military bases: activities of anti-nuclear demonstrators) (Part 1) 1983 Feb 17 1986 Mar 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2741 Industrial Policy (Short Brothers Plc: corporate plan and privatisation prospects) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 13 1989 Mar 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2111 Economic Policy (Bank takeovers and mergers; takeover bids for Royal Bank of Scotland Group, 1981) 1981 Apr 8 1987 Jul 6 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2655 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Prime Minister's seminar on the global climate, April 1989; part 9. Orderable at item level.) (Part 9) 1989 Apr 2 1989 Apr 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1375 Security (Custody contacts of persons accused of security offences, following arrest of Security Service officer Michael Bettaney) 1984 May 1 1984 Jul 13 2014 Jan 3 1
PREM19/1724 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: introduction of General Certificate of Education (GCSE); Education Bill; biased teaching and political indoctrination in schools and colleges; city technological colleges; restructuring school education) (Part 8) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Sep 25 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1636 Security (Leak to press on expulsion of Soviet Embassy officials in April 1985) 1985 Apr 18 1985 Jun 17 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2403 Prime Minister (Arab League Delegation visit to London: meeting with Prime Minister; supply of IR18 Thermal Imager to Syria) (Part 3) 1983 Apr 15 1988 Mar 15 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1848 Memorials (Lord Shinwell's memorial service) 1986 May 21 1986 Jun 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2404 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Archbishop Worlock and Bishop David Sheppard of Liverpool) 1986 Nov 17 1987 Sep 24 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1248 Government machinery (Review of government statistical services, study led by Sir Derek Rayner; control of government statistical surveys) 1979 Oct 10 1984 Mar 6 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1593 Parliament (House of Commons procedure: election of Speaker; appointment of Departmental Select Committees; Government reply to Public Accounts Committee; rules on release of documents and disclosure of information to Select Committees) (Part 6) 1983 Apr 12 1985 May 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2100 Economic Policy (Policy on small firms; Local Enterprise Agencies) (Part 6) 1985 May 1 1987 Jan 2 2016 Jul 21

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