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
PREM19/1631 Security (Security vetting: guidelines for Private Office posts) 1983 Jun 23 1985 Jan 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2400 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with a delegation of Muslim religious leaders, 28 April 1988) 1988 Jan 28 1988 Jun 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2946 Economic Policy (Inland Revenue: PAYE computer project; International Computers Limited (ICL)) (Part 3) 1984 Apr 6 1990 Apr 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1501 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Egypt and Jordan, September 1985: policy and briefing) 1985 Jul 15 1985 Sep 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2236 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 10) 1987 Oct 1 1988 Jan 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1851 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 14) 1985 Oct 1 1986 May 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1379 Security (Article in ‘The Times’ by Edward Rowlands MP on the Labour Government and the Falkland Islands; disclosure of intelligence information and use of quotations from Cabinet Committee papers) 1983 Jan 17 1984 May 7 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2030 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; subscription television; independent television producers; external television broadcasting; broadcasting legislation) (Part 5) 1987 Sep 8 1987 Dec 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1728 Education (Student loans: review of financial support for students) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 23 1986 May 19 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2562 United Nations (Special Session on Disarmament, June 1988) (Part 2) 1988 Feb 5 1988 Feb 28 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/1251 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Scrutiny Programme) (Part 15) 1984 Mar 1 1984 Jul 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3176 Soviet Union (Prime Minister's visit to the Soviet Union, June 1990: policy) (Part 4) 1990 Jun 1 1990 Jul 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2357 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 12) 1987 Feb 12 1987 Sep 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2104 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 37) 1987 Feb 5 1987 Jul 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2883 Trade (Consumer safety) 1984 Feb 6 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30

Pages