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 classification Pagessort descending Link to selections
PREM19/1611 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with James Hill MP to discuss Southampton's Docks and Freeport) 1985 May 16 1985 Oct 14 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2202 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 22) 1986 Nov 3 1987 Jan 27 2015 Dec 30
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
PREM19/2072 Defence (Royal Navy deployments) 1980 Jan 18 1987 Dec 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1241 France (State visit to UK by President Mitterrand, October 1984) (Part 4) 1984 Mar 1 1984 Nov 2 Retained Retained
PREM19/2580 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 40) 1988 Jul 5 1988 Dec 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2053 Defence (Arms control) (Part 10) 1986 Dec 1 1987 Mar 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2719 Home Affairs (Lead in the environment: reports of the Lawther Working Party (1980) and Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (1983)) 1980 Mar 20 1989 Feb 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1840 Manpower (Employment policy: employment measures; review of employment policies) (Part 14) 1986 May 2 1986 Oct 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1498 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) (Part 1) 1985 Apr 5 1985 Jul 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2422 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Sir Brandon Rhys Williams MP) 1986 Nov 11 1987 Nov 25 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1902 Prime Minister (Meeting with Neville Trotter MP about Swan Hunter shipyard) 1986 Feb 27 1986 Mar 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2572 Yemen (Internal situation in the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY): evacuation of British subjects and others) 1980 Apr 22 1988 Oct 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1761 France (Internal situation) (Part 2) 1982 Feb 5 1986 Sep 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2329 Ministers (Ministers' plans for holidays and official visits overseas during the Parliamentary recess) 1980 May 7 1988 Jun 6 2016 Jul 21

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