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
PREM19/1757 Foreign Policy (Summary notes on Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) Assessments) (Part 1) 1983 Sep 22 1986 Jul 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2320 Manpower (Special employment measures: White Paper 'Employment for the 1990s') (Part 20) 1988 Nov 1 1988 Dec 29 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/3064 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 17) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Mar 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2360 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding: Hill-Norton Committee Report on Hull Forms for Warships ('short fat ships')) (Part 2) 1986 Oct 14 1988 Jul 27 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2215 Home Affairs (The 1981 and 1991 Census) 1979 Aug 13 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2920 Canada (UK/Canadian relations) (Part 6) 1985 Sep 5 1990 Jun 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2088 Economic Policy (Strategy) (Part 27) 1985 Jan 8 1987 Jul 24 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1591 Overseas Aid (Overseas aid policy: International Development Association (IDA)) (Part 4) 1984 Jan 4 1985 Jun 25 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1252 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Scrutiny Programme; review of government purchasing) (Part 16) 1984 Aug 1 1984 Nov 20 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2601 Civil Service (Position of the Head of the Civil Service) 1987 Jun 25 1987 Jun 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2091 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - Toronto) (Part 24) 1987 Jun 26 1988 Jun 11 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2741 Industrial Policy (Short Brothers Plc: corporate plan and privatisation prospects) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 13 1989 Mar 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1858 National Health (Mental health legislation: draft White Paper; release of dangerous psychopaths) 1981 Oct 26 1986 Apr 22 2015 Dec 30 1
PREM19/2433 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Invitations, all declined, from various organisations in the USA) (Part 2) 1982 Apr 1 1986 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1916 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to France for Anglo-French Summit, Paris, November 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 May 7 1986 Nov 24 2016 Feb 19

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