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 ascending Link to selections
PREM19/591 Security (Security of the Secret Services; Chapman Pincher's book on penetration of security and intelligence services, 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Prime Minister's statement in Parliament) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1981 Aug 12 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2652 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; London Conference on Saving the Ozone Layer, March 1989) (Part 6) 1988 Aug 1 1989 Jan 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2116 Education (New blood for research and information technology: follow-up to the Alvey Report on Advanced Information Technology; international collaboration; the EUREKA programme) 1982 Nov 30 1987 Sep 4 2016 Nov 7 3
PREM19/2756 Legal Procedure (Review of the legal profession: legal reforms) (Part 3) 1989 Apr 4 1989 Nov 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1880 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 14) 1985 Jun 3 1986 Apr 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2443 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Australia, August 1988: administrative arrangements) (Part 1) 1988 Jan 20 1988 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1935 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's seminar and reception for industrial designers, January 1982)(Part 1) 1981 Oct 19 1985 Dec 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2627 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 43) 1989 Aug 2 1989 Dec 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1783 Home Affairs (Civil disorder: the Handsworth and Tottenham riots) (Part 3) 1985 Oct 4 1986 Mar 20 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2352 Nationalised Industries (Coal mines) (Part 20) 1986 Aug 4 1987 Oct 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3178 Soviet Union (Soviet leadership: major political speeches) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 2 1990 Jun 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2489 Security (Distribution of the Prime Minister's diary) 1981 May 13 1988 May 24 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1703 Economic policy (Policy towards privatisation: disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions; flotation of Royal Ordnance PLC; Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) picketing at DHSS Huyton Local Office over privatised cleaning contract) (Part 13) 1985 Dec 2 1986 Jun 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1360 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Clifton Garvin, Chairman of Exxon Corporation, and Archibald Forster, Chairman of Esso Petroleum, July 1984) 1982 Jun 7 1984 Jun 3 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2247 Industrial Policy (Industrial production) 1987 Jul 14 1987 Aug 10 2016 Jul 21

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