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
PREM19/2271 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish Summits; Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 16) 1986 May 8 1987 Feb 1 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2779 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service: community care) (Part 22) 1989 Jul 5 1989 Oct 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1654 USA (Economic situation in the United States) (Part 2) 1982 Oct 12 1985 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1313 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; Youth Training Scheme; review of Community Programme) (Part 10) 1983 Jul 1 1984 Oct 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/975 Defence (Control of nuclear weapon systems deployed in UK: correspondence from David Owen) 1982 Dec 8 1983 Nov 18 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 74
PREM19/515 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 5) 1981 Jun 4 1981 Sep 8 2011 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/175 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 11 1980 Feb 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/2459 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, November 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jun 8 1988 Dec 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2192 Government Machinery (Ministerial responsibility for the arts and libraries) 1979 May 14 1987 Jul 16 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2879 Trade (Commodity policy: International Tin Council litigation; International Coffee Agreement) (Part 4) 1986 Nov 5 1989 Nov 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2061 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 10) 1988 Feb 3 1988 Jul 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1569 Manpower (Employment policy: special employment programmes; White Paper on education and training for young people; Youth Training Scheme (YTS); long term unemployment) (Part 12) 1985 Mar 1 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 291
PREM19/1233 European policy (Public attitudes to Europe) 1980 Jun 18 1984 Jun 2 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/95 National Health Service (Doctors' and Dentists' pay) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jul 27 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 242
PREM19/436 Economic policy (Correspondence from John Sparrow on financial and economic policy; meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 May 25 1982 Apr 16 2011 Dec 30 Unclassified 170

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