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
PREM19/1766 Gibraltar (Policy towards Gibraltar: discussions with Spanish under Lisbon and Brussels Agreements) (Part 5) 1984 Apr 6 1986 Oct 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2597 China (Internal situation in China) (Part 1) 1979 May 30 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1931 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base; the science budget; the Engineer and Technology Programme; increase in graduate engineers and technologists) (Part 3) 1985 Apr 2 1985 Jun 28 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1346 Posts and telecommunications (Telephone rental and standing charges) 1982 Mar 12 1983 May 12 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2445 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Berlin, September 1987: administrative arrangements) 1987 Aug 6 1987 Sep 28 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/1695 Defence (Arms control) (Part 9) 1986 Jul 1 1986 Nov 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3013 Government Machinery (Transfer of responsibility for the Passport Office from the Foreign Secretary to the Home Secretary: possible private sector involvement) 1983 Jun 23 1990 Mar 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2305 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 6) 1987 Feb 3 1987 Jul 1 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1874 Nationalised Industries (Organisation of electricity supply industry: private electricity generation) 1979 Jul 18 1986 Aug 6 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2760 Local Government (Correspondence from Sir John Sainsbury on planning controls: general planning inquiries) (Part 5) 1988 Feb 2 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2140 Energy (Release of 30 year old records about the Windscale fire in 1957) 1987 Feb 23 1987 Oct 2 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2767 Local Government (Correspondence with Councillor Paul Beresford, Leader of Wandsworth Council) 1989 Feb 22 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2413 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Lord Sieff) 1980 Apr 8 1987 Jun 16 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1868 Nationalised Industries (Nationalised industry policy; financial control) (Part 10) 1985 Mar 21 1986 May 27 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1317 National health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS); NHS Management Inquiry Report (Griffiths Report); priorities and policies for health and personal social services) (Part 2) 1983 Apr 7 1984 Feb 20 2014 Jan 3

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