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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2142 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy; establishment of HM Inspectorate of Pollution; acid rain - European Community directive on large combustion plants; air pollution; Government response to Select Committee on the Environment report on river and estuary pollution) (Part 5) 1986 Aug 1 1988 Jul 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2776 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; draft White Paper) (Part 19) 1989 Jan 23 1989 Feb 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1906 Prime Minister (Gift of moon dust to the people of the UK from President Nixon of the USA. Note: With photograph) 1970 Feb 10 1985 Jan 18 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1531 Hong Kong (Metro Cammell contract to supply rolling stock for Kowloon-Canton railway) 1981 Aug 14 1985 Sep 26 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1195 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 9) 1984 Jan 16 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3 Secret 246
PREM19/858 Oman (Prime Minister's visit to Oman, April 1981: follow-up action; military assistance and training charges; aid; credit for defence equipment) 1981 Apr 24 1982 Mar 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 76
PREM19/522 Malta (Visits to UK by Dr Edward Fenech Adami, leader of Maltese opposition Nationalist Party, November 1979 and June 1981: meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 Oct 12 1981 Jun 1 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 27
PREM19/182 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; transitional problems; arbitration arrangements; comparability and cash limits) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 25 1980 Oct 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 193
PREM19/2454 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to NATO Summit, March 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jan 19 1988 Mar 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1964 Social Services (National Insurance contributions review; National Insurance surcharge; Redundancy Fund) 1979 Nov 5 1985 Nov 7 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2639 Economic Policy (Correspondence with Sir Emmanuel Kaye on capital taxation) 1979 Oct 3 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1794 Home Affairs (Animal welfare matters) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 6 1986 Sep 25 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/102 Prime Minister (Meeting with Cardinal Hume, Northern Ireland May 1979) 1979 May 7 1979 May 29 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 34
PREM19/1451 Drugs (Drug misuse: trafficking; proposed legislation; Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) report) (Part 2) 1985 Jun 3 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 219
PREM19/1115 Regional policy (Review of regional policy, creation of Enterprise Zones) (Part 4) 1981 Jun 30 1983 Jan 27 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 215

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