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
PREM19/2719 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
PREM19/2412 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Chilver, 13 April 1988) 1988 Jan 20 1988 Apr 14 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
PREM19/2314 Manpower (Rayner Scrutiny of payment of benefits to unemployed people: joint study by Department of Employment and Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS); taxing of Unemployment Benefit) (Part 2) 1982 Jun 4 1988 Mar 8 2016 Jul 21
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
PREM19/3071 Manpower (Special employment measures: training policy; pilot schemes of training credits for young people) (Part 24) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2391 Posts and Telecommunications (Future of the Post Office; Sale of the Government's Cable and Wireless shares; British Telecom (BT) and National Girobank) (Part 10) 1985 Aug 1 1987 Sep 18 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1681 Canada (Prime Minister's Visit to Canada, July 1986: Vancouver Transportation Exposition 1986 (Expo 86)) 1981 Jul 8 1986 Sep 12 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1338 Parliament (Article in ‘The Listener’ by Julian Critchley MP alleging breach of pairing rules by Tom Pendry MP in 1976 vote: Pendry's action against Critchley; possible disclosure of report by Government and Opposition Whips in June 1976 to Prime Minister Callaghan) 1976 Jun 18 1984 Oct 12 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2208 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 28) 1988 Aug 5 1988 Nov 29 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2590 Austria (Visits to the UK by Austrian Foreign Ministers: Erwin Lanc (November 1983) and Alois Mock (December 1989)) 1983 Sep 2 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2932 Defence (Future UK defence policy) (Part 4) 1989 Apr 11 1990 Jul 28 2016 Dec 30

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