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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2141 Environmental Affairs (Radon in houses: remedial measures to deal with potentially hazardous concentrations of Radon-222 gas in houses) 1986 Dec 17 1987 Jan 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2771 Maldives (Visits to the UK by President Gayoom of the Maldives) (Part 3) 1981 Aug 10 1989 Mar 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1890 Prime Minister (Meeting with Geoffrey Dickens MP about child welfare and protection, 30 January 1986) 1986 Jan 15 1986 Feb 21 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1530 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 17) 1984 Sep 26 1985 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1194 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 30) 1984 Nov 6 1984 Dec 14 2014 Jan 3 Secret 376
PREM19/857 Nationalised industries (Proposed acquisition by British Steel Corporation of US steel company, Kaiser Steel) 1981 Dec 11 1982 Nov 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 96
PREM19/521 Luxembourg (Visit to UK by Gaston Thorn (Foreign Minister of Luxembourg and President-designate of the European Commission), October 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1979 Jun 26 1981 Oct 14 2011 Dec 30 Secret 74
PREM19/181 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; possible industrial disputes; the pay round) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 19 1980 Jun 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 164
PREM19/2453 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Economic Summit in Toronto and to Ottawa, June 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Jun 30 1988 Aug 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1963 Social Services (The maternity grant) 1979 Dec 21 1986 Mar 5 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2638 Economic Policy (VAT zero rates: infraction proceedings; European Court of Justice judgment) (Part 1) 1982 Feb 12 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1793 Home Affairs (The 1978 annual report by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC): financing of the NSPCC) 1979 Jul 2 1986 Jan 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/101 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 2) 1979 Jul 12 1979 Nov 23 2009 Dec 30 Secret 334
PREM19/1450 Drugs (Drug misuse: prevention; proposed legislation) (Part 1) 1982 Nov 19 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 252
PREM19/1114 Regional policy (Urban Development Corporations; regeneration of Liverpool and London Docklands; Medway Towns; inner city policy and problems) (Part 3) 1981 Nov 19 1983 Aug 9 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 248

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