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
PREM19/85 Ireland (Information policy - correspondence with HRH Prince of Wales) 1979 Nov 16 1979 Dec 17 2020 Jan 1 Unknown
PREM19/2346 National Health (Primary health care: draft White Paper) (Part 1) 1986 Mar 6 1988 Oct 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3147 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to the Soviet Union, June 1990: administrative arrangements) 1989 Oct 6 1990 Jun 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2476 Saudi Arabia (Visits by Crown Prince Abdullah, February 1984 and June 1988) 1982 Oct 7 1988 Jun 21 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1697 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 7) 1986 Aug 1 1986 Dec 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1354 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Ralph Howell MP, seeking support for Employment Research Centre (ERC) of University of Buckingham, July 1983) 1983 Jul 5 1984 May 3 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2239 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 13) 1988 Aug 5 1988 Dec 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2959 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 12) 1989 Jun 13 1990 Sep 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2126 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure; Higginson Report on future of 'A' levels; polytechnics; City Arts College; national curriculum issues; opting out of Local Education (Part 19) 1988 Jun 1 1988 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1275 Industrial policy (Abolition of government control over port development) 1984 Feb 29 1984 Apr 26 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2708 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; value for money seminars; Next Steps initiative) (Part 31) 1989 Jul 3 1989 Oct 30 2016 Dec 30
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

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