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 ascending Link to selections
PREM19/2448 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to NATO, February 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Sep 25 1988 Feb 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1958 Social Services (Long-term strategy for social security operations; procurement of mainframe computers) (Part 1) 1980 Sep 26 1986 Apr 21 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2631 Economic Policy (Exchange rate: exchange control policy) (Part 3) 1987 Jan 29 1989 May 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1741 Environemntal Affairs (Report on leak at Windscale: policy towards Sellafield; environmental pollution; report on incidence of cancer in west Cumbria; report of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment) (Part 1) 1980 Jul 28 1986 Jul 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1398 Transport (Merger of British Rail Hovercraft and Hoverlloyd (hovercraft operators) to form Hoverspeed in 1981; financial difficulties of Hoverspeed) 1981 Jun 16 1984 Jan 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2357 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 12) 1987 Feb 12 1987 Sep 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3187 St Lucia (UK/St Lucia relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 29 1990 Oct 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2494 Security (Ministerial personal protection: security arrangements for overnight parking of Ministers' cars: VIP security) 1979 Aug 28 1987 Jun 12 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1659 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, February 1985) (Part 4B) 1985 Feb 13 1985 Mar 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1318 National health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS); NHS Management Inquiry Report (Griffiths Report); priorities and policies for health and personal social services) (Part 3) 1984 Mar 10 1984 Aug 24 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/980 Defence (Nuclear release procedures; understandings between the USA and UK on use of nuclear weapons and bases; Anglo/German defence understanding) (Part 3) 1982 Feb 26 1983 Mar 4 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/2252 Industrial Policy (Research and development) (Part 3) 1986 Oct 13 1987 Mar 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2973 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 19) 1988 Apr 5 1990 Apr 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2137 Energy (North Sea oil prices; petrol prices; world oil market) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 4 1987 Feb 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2067 Defence (Military communications satellite) 1981 Oct 1 1988 Sep 30 2016 Dec 30

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