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 descending Link to selections
PREM19/2441 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Invitations, declined, from organisations in Israel) 1980 Jul 8 1987 Mar 25 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1933 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's meeting with Sir George Porter, President of the Royal Society) 1986 May 22 1986 Aug 5 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2624 Drugs (Drug misuse: international cooperation) (Part 4) 1987 Jun 25 1989 Nov 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1781 Government Machinery (Non-dePartmental public bodies (quangos): review programme) (Part 3) 1986 Aug 1 1986 Sep 9 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2350 National Health (Seminars on health and social security matters: NHS Review) (Part 3) 1988 Mar 2 1988 May 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3173 South Africa (Situation in Namibia) (Part 5) 1989 May 2 1990 Nov 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2487 Security (Correspondence with Gavin Strong MP concerning Archibald and Jane Williams) 1988 Feb 19 1988 Mar 15 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1358 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with James Grant, Executive Director of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), December 1982) 1982 Nov 11 1984 Nov 20 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1022 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 21) 1983 Jun 20 1983 Oct 31 Closed until 2019-01-01 Unknown
PREM19/2245 Industrial Policy (Industrial action by seamen) 1981 Jan 12 1988 Jun 15 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2963 Environmental Affairs (Ban on trading in ivory) 1989 Jun 14 1990 Mar 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2131 Education (Future of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA): opting out of ILEA by London boroughs; contingency plans for abolition) (Part 5) 1987 Aug 20 1988 Jun 23 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1279 Industrial policy (Future of Rolls-Royce) (Part 2) 1979 Nov 13 1984 Mar 27 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2730 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 15) 1989 Mar 2 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2145 European Policy (UK nomination for European City of Culture, 1990: Glasgow nominated) 1986 Jun 10 1986 Oct 8 2016 Nov 7

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