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?sort ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2093 Economic Policy (Exchange rate: exchange control policy) (Part 2) 1982 Apr 6 1986 Dec 11 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2124 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: Education Reform Bill; education in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland; financial delegation; grant maintained schools; national curriculum; future of Paisley Grammar School; charges forschool activities; opting out of Local Education Authority (LEA) control; religious education) (Part 17) 1988 Jan 7 1988 Mar 30 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1994 Uganda (Internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Apr 17 1986 Jan 31 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2290 Kenya (Prime Minister's visit to Kenya, January 1988) (Part 1) 1987 Nov 16 1988 Apr 20 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2042 Civil Service (Introduction of new technology: Project Gemstione, electronic mail for Private Offices) (Part 2) 1986 Jul 17 1988 Mar 16 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/476 Government machinery (Organisation of Treasury and Civil Service Department (CSD); consideration of a 'Prime Minister's Department') (Part 4) 1981 May 20 1981 Oct 30 2011 Dec 30 1 Secret 227
PREM19/1865 Nationalised Industries (Coal mines) (Part 19) 1985 Dec 2 1986 Jul 31 2015 Dec 30 1
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
PREM19/1889 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's weekly diary meeting) 1979 May 21 1986 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1187 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 10) 1983 May 4 1984 Apr 12 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 121
PREM19/1044 Government machinery (Internal audit and financial control in government) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 11 1983 Feb 9 2013 Aug 1 1 Confidential 195
PREM19/963 China (Sino/British relations; defence sales) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1983 Nov 21 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 341
PREM19/978 Defence (Future UK defence policy; the health of the NATO Alliance; review of NATO) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 5 1983 Oct 3 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 246
PREM19/1871 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy; British Shipbuilders) (Part 10) 1986 May 1 1986 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/281 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 7) 1980 Jun 5 1980 Aug 5 2010 Dec 30 1 Secret 156

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