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 classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1293 Ireland (Hunger strike at the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland) (Part 6) 1981 Sep 1 1984 Mar 5 2014 Jan 3 3
PREM19/3009 Government Machinery (Departmental responsibility for response to marine oil and chemical spills) 1983 Mar 30 1990 Feb 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2303 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 35) 1988 Apr 5 1988 Jul 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1872 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding: Hill-Norton Committee Report on Hull Forms for Warships ('short fat ships')) (Part 1) 1985 Jul 2 1986 Sep 29 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2758 Legal Procedure (The jury system in Britain) 1988 Oct 27 1989 Jan 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2128 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 9) 1986 Nov 3 1987 Mar 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2729 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 14) 1989 Jan 6 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2139 Energy (Staffing of Nuclear Installations Inspectorate) 1980 Mar 5 1987 Dec 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2730 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 15) 1989 Mar 2 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1736 Energy (Conservation and efficiency: Energy Efficiency Office; report of Select Committee on Energy; energy efficiency grants; energy saving in government offices) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 3 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1867 Nationalised Industries (Pay of Chairmen and Board members) (Part 3) 1984 Jun 1 1986 Apr 29 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1259 Guinea (Visits to UK by Guinea Ministers; Prime Minister's meeting with Prime Minister Diarra Traore) 1984 Jan 23 1984 Jul 4 2014 Jan 3 2
PREM19/1605 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Gordon Brown MP to discuss factory closures in his Dunfermline East constituency and general regional policy) 1983 Sep 11 1985 Jan 11 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2125 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure; Education Reform Bill; opting out of Local Education Authority (LEA) control in Scotland; position of National Union of Students (NUS); Christian education; admission to maintained schools;polytechnics; national curriculum issues; Higginson Report on future of 'A' levels) (Part 18) 1988 Apr 6 1988 May 26 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2965 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Environmental Protection Bill) (Part 13) 1989 Dec 1 1990 Jan 31 2016 Dec 30

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