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
PREM19/2168 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 38) 1987 Dec 2 1988 May 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2934 Defence (War widows' pensions) 1979 Nov 1 1990 Apr 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2572 Yemen (Internal situation in the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY): evacuation of British subjects and others) 1980 Apr 22 1988 Oct 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1910 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Norway, September 1986: administrative arrangements) 1985 Sep 16 1986 Oct 13 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2434 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, and private visit to Dallas, October 1987: administrative arrangements) (Part 1) 1987 Mar 1 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1282 Industrial policy (Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development (ACARD) report on new opportunities in manufacturing) 1984 Jul 24 1984 Sep 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1550 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 9) 1985 Jul 1 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2032 Cambodia (Internal situation: derecognition of Pol Pot regime; Prince Sihanouk) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 16 1988 Nov 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2994 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visits to Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Switzerland, 16-23 September 1990) 1990 Aug 17 1990 Oct 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1773 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; Efficiency Unit report on 'The Use of Value for Money Targets 1985-86', volume II) 1986 Apr 1 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2293 Legal Procedure (Increase in number of Lords Justices of Appeal) 1987 Oct 21 1987 Oct 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2743 Industrial Policy (Industrial relations law: strikes in essential services; industrial disputes) (Part 15) 1989 May 23 1989 Aug 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2113 Education (Department of Education and Science (DES) draft circular 'Providing for Quality: the Pattern of Organisation to Age 19': proposed consultation) 1986 Jun 30 1986 Jul 21 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2657 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; proposed White Paper on the Environment; part 11. Orderable at item level.) (Part 11) 1989 Jun 5 1989 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1849 Memorials (General Sir Brian Horrocks' memorial service) 1985 Jan 24 1985 Jan 31 2016 Feb 19

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