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
PREM19/2205 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 25) 1987 Nov 13 1988 Jan 13 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1566 Malaysia (UK/Malaysia relations: visit to UK by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, March 1983; meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 28 1985 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30 4
PREM19/2897 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; draft White Paper) (Part 18) 1989 Jan 3 1989 Jan 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1978 Sport (Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, July 1986) 1985 Aug 1 1986 Dec 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2478 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget; national priorities for science and technology) (Part 6) 1987 Sep 7 1987 Dec 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3063 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 16) 1990 Jan 2 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2330 Morocco (Visits to UK by Moroccan Foreign Minister M'hamed Boucetta and his successor Dr Filali) 1981 Aug 20 1988 Sep 16 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/1318 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 3) 1984 Mar 10 1984 Aug 24 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1665 Aerospace (Future and structure of British Airways: settlement of litigation concerning the collapse of Laker Airways; airports policy; USA/UK future aviation strategy; economic regulation of airports; competition regime for UK/US aviation) (Part 4) 1985 May 3 1986 Jan 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1972 South Korea (Prime Minister's visit to South Korea, May 1986) 1982 Mar 29 1986 May 16 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2809 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings and correspondence with Jack Peel (Director of Industrial Relations at the European Commission until March 1981)) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 1 1989 Sep 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2170 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 40) 1988 Oct 3 1989 Feb 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2938 Defence (Service exercises to test the transition to war and home defence procedures: Ministerial participation in NATO exercises) 1979 Jul 25 1990 Nov 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2575 Zambia (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1987 Aug 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1912 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Expo' 86 exhibition in Vancouver, Canada, July 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 Jan 18 1986 Aug 12 2016 Feb 19 4

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