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
PREM19/2955 Education (General policy on education) (Part 24) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Mar 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2124 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: Education Reform Bill; education in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland; financial delegation; grant maintained schools; national curriculum; future of Paisley Grammar School; charges forschool activities; opting out of Local Education Authority (LEA) control; religious education) (Part 17) 1988 Jan 7 1988 Mar 30 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1610 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Frank Field MP on the proposed closure of Manchester Steel's Bidston works) 1985 May 9 1985 Jun 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2662 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community; Cabinet Office brief on Community competence) (Part 41) 1989 Mar 1 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2139 Energy (Staffing of Nuclear Installations Inspectorate) 1980 Mar 5 1987 Dec 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2769 Luxembourg (Prime Minister's visits to Luxembourg, October 1979 and April 1989: policy) 1979 Sep 20 1989 Apr 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1888 Prime Minister (Forward speaking engagements)(Part 1) 1979 May 18 1986 Mar 6 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1245a Germany (Visits to UK by Chancellor Helmut Kohl; Anglo-German Summit) (Part 8A) 1983 Oct 11 1984 Aug 29 2014 Jan 3 2
PREM19/2451 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris, June 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 May 13 1988 Jun 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1961 Social Services (Board and lodging charges) 1984 Nov 28 1986 Dec 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2636 Economic Policy (Covenanted charitable donations by close companies: taxation of charities; White Paper on Charities) (Part 1) 1985 Mar 22 1989 May 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1791 Home Affairs (Disposal of nuclear waste) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 20 1986 Jan 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2362 Nationalised Industries (Steel Industry: British Steel Corporation (BSC) privatisation) (Part 15) 1987 Oct 1 1988 Nov 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3192 Transport (British Rail: possible line closures; public transport disputes; proposed restructuring of British Rail) (Part 10) 1988 Oct 5 1990 Jan 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2497 Security (Correspondence with Members of Parliament) 1988 Apr 12 1988 Apr 22 Retained Retained Sec 3.4

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