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 ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1731 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 7) 1986 Apr 15 1986 Oct 2 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1859 National Health (Study of leukaemia in Scotland) 1986 Jun 9 1986 Jun 9 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2410 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with John Browne MP, 21 October 1986: discussion of proposed M3 extension around Winchester. Note: With maps) 1981 Dec 7 1987 Apr 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1600 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with John Blackburn MP about closure of Round Oak Steelworks, Dudley) 1982 Dec 4 1983 Mar 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2107 Economic Policy (Public sector pay policy; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 13) 1984 Oct 4 1987 Jul 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2960 Education (Tuition fees for overseas students) 1980 Jun 4 1990 Aug 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2248 Industrial Policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 12) 1985 Mar 6 1987 Jan 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1400 Transport (British Rail: review of main line electrification; Hastings-Tonbridge rail service) 1980 Nov 13 1984 Jul 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2578 Defence (Rundown of Royal Dockyards at Chatham and Portsmouth: Chatham Historic Dockyard) 1982 Apr 19 1986 Jul 11 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1824 Lebanon (United States concerns) 1983 Sep 15 1986 Apr 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1275 Industrial policy (Abolition of government control over port development) 1984 Feb 29 1984 Apr 26 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2702 Government Machinery (Review of administrative forms) (Part 2) 1986 Nov 3 1989 Dec 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2045 Civil Service (Rules governing acceptance of business appointments by civil servants following resignation or retirement) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 24 1987 Feb 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1699 Disasters (Ethiopian famine relief) 1984 Oct 25 1986 Jan 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3192 Transport (British Rail: possible line closures; public transport disputes; proposed restructuring of British Rail) (Part 10) 1988 Oct 5 1990 Jan 11 2016 Dec 30

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