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 ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3117 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Hartley Booth and Lew Wasserman: British Urban Development Ltd; proposed MCA theme park and film studio project at Rainham, Essex) 1989 May 15 1990 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1771 Government Machinery (Review of administrative forms) (Part 1) 1980 Aug 14 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2616 Defence (Deployment of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) in Europe) (Part 5) 1984 Jul 5 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1936 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's meeting with industrialists and leading academics, February 1985; the Engineering and Technology Programme) 1985 Oct 28 1986 Mar 7 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2450 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris, November 1987: administrative arrangements) 1987 Nov 1 1987 Nov 23 2016 Nov 7 2
PREM19/3023 Home Affairs (Financial provision after divorce) 1982 Jan 1 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2310 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 11) 1988 Aug 3 1988 Dec 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1882 Parliament (Queen's Speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising proceedings of the House of Commons) (Part 6) 1984 Nov 2 1986 Mar 11 2016 Jul 21 4
PREM19/2769 Luxembourg (Prime Minister's visits to Luxembourg, October 1979 and April 1989: policy) 1979 Sep 20 1989 Apr 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1253 Government machinery (Organisation of Treasury and Cabinet Office; Management and Personnel Office (MPO); future of Efficiency Unit; abolition of Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS)) (Part 6) 1982 Aug 25 1984 Jan 16 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2145 European Policy (UK nomination for European City of Culture, 1990: Glasgow nominated) 1986 Jun 10 1986 Oct 8 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/2804 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Professor Abdus Salam, May 1989) 1989 Apr 21 1989 May 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2418 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Irina Ratushinskaya, 22 December 1986) 1986 Dec 19 1988 Jun 13 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1742 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: vehicle emissions; acid rain; pollution control; environmental protection) (Part 4) 1985 Jun 18 1986 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2132 Elections (Election procedure) (Part 2) 1987 Jan 5 1987 May 12 2016 Jul 21 2

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