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
PREM19/983 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 21) 1982 Oct 1 1983 Jan 24 2013 Aug 1
PREM19/1327 Nationalised industries (Nationalised industry policy; financial control; overseas role; Nationalised Industries Bill) (Part 8) 1983 Jan 5 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2012 Aerospace (Space policy) (Part 3) 1987 Jul 14 1988 Nov 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2835 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget) (Part 8) 1988 Dec 1 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2183 France (Visits to UK by Raymond Barre, December 1981, April 1983, January 1986 and March 1987) 1980 Dec 1 1987 Mar 25 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3008 Government Machinery (Future of the Crown Agents: guidelines on procedure for tribunals of inquiry) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 18 1990 Jun 5 2016 Dec 30
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

Pages