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 ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2591 Botswana (Visits to the UK by President Masire of Botswana to Britain) 1980 Sep 18 1989 Jun 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3007 Germany (Visits by Chancellor Helmut Kohl to the UK) (Part 10) 1986 Nov 20 1990 Mar 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2756 Legal Procedure (Review of the legal profession: legal reforms) (Part 3) 1989 Apr 4 1989 Nov 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2711 Government Machinery (Procedure for public appointments) 1979 May 8 1989 Dec 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2963 Environmental Affairs (Ban on trading in ivory) 1989 Jun 14 1990 Mar 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2584 Agricultural (Agricultural Wages Board) 1983 Mar 28 1989 Jan 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2706 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; value for money seminars; Next Steps initiative) (Part 29) 1988 Dec 1 1989 Apr 20 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2712 Government Machinery (The Central Office of Information (COI) and the future of the Information Services: Government advertising expenditure; repayment for services provided by the COI) 1979 May 18 1989 May 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3204 USA (Prime Minister's correspondence and meetings with Congressman Jack Kemp) 1979 Nov 19 1990 Jul 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2902 Agriculture (Discussion paper by Consultative Board of the Joint Consultative Organisation for Research and Development in Agriculture and Food: correspondence with Lord Rothschild; Priorities Board for Research and Development in Agriculture and Food) (Part 1) 1983 Jun 20 1990 May 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2649 Education (Violence and discipline in schools) 1987 Nov 30 1989 Mar 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3080 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 27) 1990 Sep 1 1990 Sep 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2832 Royal Family (Ownership of the Royal Palaces: Historic Royal Palaces Agency) 1987 Nov 26 1989 Dec 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3005 Germany (Visits to the UK by Richard von Weizsacker, President of the Federal Republic of Germany) 1986 Feb 3 1990 Oct 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2593 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy) (Part 7) 1988 Oct 3 1989 Apr 27 2016 Dec 30

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