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 Beginssort descending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2170 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 40) 1988 Oct 3 1989 Feb 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2785 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 15) 1988 Oct 4 1989 Jul 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2511 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 12) 1988 Oct 5 1988 Dec 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/3192 Transport (British Rail: possible line closures; public transport disputes; proposed restructuring of British Rail) (Part 10) 1988 Oct 5 1990 Jan 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2161 European Policy (European Council meeting, Rhodes, December 1988) (Part 30) 1988 Oct 24 1988 Dec 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2758 Legal Procedure (The jury system in Britain) 1988 Oct 27 1989 Jan 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2320 Manpower (Special employment measures: White Paper 'Employment for the 1990s') (Part 20) 1988 Nov 1 1988 Dec 29 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2386 Poland (Prime Minister's visit to Poland, November 1988 ) (Part 2) 1988 Nov 1 1988 Dec 17 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2630 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 20) 1988 Nov 4 1989 Aug 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2546 Soviet Union (Visits to UK by President Gorbachev) (Part 2) 1988 Nov 10 1988 Dec 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2342 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; draft White Paper) (Part 16) 1988 Nov 16 1988 Dec 16 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/2452 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris, November 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Nov 23 1988 Nov 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2835 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget) (Part 8) 1988 Dec 1 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2706 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; value for money seminars; Next Steps initiative) (Part 29) 1988 Dec 1 1989 Apr 20 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3158 Scotland (Regional policy: industrial policy; Scottish Enterprise) (Part 2) 1988 Dec 1 1990 Nov 14 2016 Dec 30

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