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 Beginssort ascending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3062 Local Government (Correspondence from Sir John Sainsbury on planning controls; general planning inquiries; future of development plans; Planning Bill) (Part 7) 1989 Sep 4 1990 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2821 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Strasbourg for European Council meeting, December 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Sep 3 1989 Dec 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2738 Industrial Policy (Research and development, including European Community framework programme for research and development) (Part 7) 1989 Sep 1 1989 Dec 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2997 Germany (Anglo-German relations) (Part 5) 1989 Sep 1 1990 Sep 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2724 Home Affairs (Acid house parties) 1989 Aug 22 1989 Dec 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2627 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 43) 1989 Aug 2 1989 Dec 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2765 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 14) 1989 Aug 1 1989 Oct 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2621 Disasters (Disaster at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, 15 April 1989) (Part 2) 1989 Aug 1 1990 Apr 10 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2641 Economic Policy (Paris Economic Summit, July 1989) 1989 Aug 1 1989 Sep 4 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2805 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Professor Margaret Turner-Warwick. President of the Royal College of Physicians, July 1989) 1989 Jul 23 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2779 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service: community care) (Part 22) 1989 Jul 5 1989 Oct 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2937 Defence (Prime Ministers seminar on defence questions, Chequers, 30 September 1989) 1989 Jul 4 1990 Jan 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2836 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget) (Part 9) 1989 Jul 4 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2595 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy: Broadcasting Bill) (Part 9) 1989 Jul 3 1989 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2659 Environmental Affairs (Benson Building, Islington) (Part 12) 1989 Jul 3 1989 Jul 18 2016 Dec 30

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