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 releasesort descending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2849 Security (Leak to The Observer relating to Westland plc) 1985 Dec 24 1989 Jun 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3025 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: Working Group on Disruption in the Prison Service; private sector involvement in the remand system) (Part 5) 1989 Feb 2 1990 Mar 20 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3017 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; value for money seminars; Next Steps initiative) (Part 32) 1989 Nov 6 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2764 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 13) 1989 Jun 1 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2795 Parliament (Mr Speaker's official entertainment) 1989 Mar 1 1989 Mar 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2973 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 19) 1988 Apr 5 1990 Apr 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2596 Broadcasting (Prime Minister's seminar on broadcasting, 21 September 1987; follow-up action) (Part 2) 1987 Sep 22 1989 Aug 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2915 Brazil (Proposed visit to UK by President of Brazil, General Joao Figueiredo; visit of the President-elect, Fernando Collor de Mello, February 1990) 1981 Nov 9 1990 May 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2667 European Policy (European Council meeting, Madrid, June 1989) (Part 34) 1989 Jun 27 1989 Jul 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2528 South Africa (Report of the Erasmus Commission on alleged irregularities in the South African Department of Information; resignation of President John Vorster; European Community Erasmus programme (student exchange programme)) 1979 Jun 6 1987 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3111 Parliament (Queen's Speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising the proceedings of the House of Commons) (Part 9) 1988 Dec 6 1990 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2856 Social Services (Uprating of social security benefits) (Part 4) 1987 May 6 1989 Sep 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3066 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 19. Orderable at item level) 1990 May 2 1990 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2615 Defence (Policing of demonstrations at military bases: activities by anti-nuclear demonstrators) (Part 2) 1986 Mar 27 1989 Mar 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3021 Home Affairs (Civil disorder) (Part 4) 1988 Jun 21 1990 Dec 4 2016 Dec 30

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