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
PREM19/2599 Civil Service (Pay and pensions: pay dispute and strike) (Part 17) 1987 Apr 2 1989 Jan 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1773 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; Efficiency Unit report on 'The Use of Value for Money Targets 1985-86', volume II) 1986 Apr 1 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2342 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; draft White Paper) (Part 16) 1988 Nov 16 1988 Dec 16 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/3121 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Lady Porter, 13 September 1990: proposal for a Minister for London) 1990 Sep 13 1990 Nov 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2472 Royal Family (Career of Prince Andrew, Duke of York) 1979 May 21 1987 Oct 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1693 Defence (Arms control) (Part 7) 1985 Aug 1 1986 Feb 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1350 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Alan Bond of Airship Industries (UK) Ltd about further government financial assistance, July 1984) 1984 Jun 28 1984 Jul 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2235 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 9) 1987 Jul 6 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2954 Education (General policy on education) (Part 23) 1990 Jan 9 1990 Feb 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2115 Education (Education seminar held by the Prime Minister at Downing Street, 2 October 1985) 1985 Aug 30 1986 Jan 1 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1608 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Sir Douglas Hague on the future of Research Councils) 1984 Dec 20 1985 Feb 6 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1268 Housing (Housing policy; Housing and Building Control Bill; housing defects; council house sales) (Part 4) 1983 Jan 24 1984 Dec 21 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2660 Environmental Affairs (Parliament Square improvements) (Part 12) 1987 Jul 15 1989 May 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2122 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: bogus degrees; financial delegation; charges for school activities; grant maintained schools; national curriculum; open enrolment; education in Scotland and Wales) (Part 15) 1987 Aug 3 1987 Oct 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2764 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 13) 1989 Jun 1 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30

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