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
PREM19/1291 Ireland (European Commission of Human Rights: case of Farrell v. UK) 1979 Nov 7 1984 Aug 1 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2192 Government Machinery (Ministerial responsibility for the arts and libraries) 1979 May 14 1987 Jul 16 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1774 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste) (Part 21) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2622 Disasters (Railway accident at Clapham Junction, 12 December 1988) 1988 Dec 12 1989 Nov 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/287 Legal Procedure (Proposed amendment to Act of Settlement 1701) 1980 Jul 8 1980 Oct 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1957 Social Services (Uprating of social security benefits) (Part 3) 1982 Mar 18 1986 Oct 22 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2453 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Economic Summit in Toronto and to Ottawa, June 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Jun 30 1988 Aug 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3028 Home Affairs (The campaign against and the use of chemical herbicides, especially 2,4,5-T: pesticide policy) 1980 Jun 1 1990 Apr 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1384 Security (South African diplomat accused of spying for Russia) 1983 Jan 19 1984 Jan 23 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1519 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste) (Part 19 annex) 1985 Aug 1 1985 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1885 Parliament (Boundary Commission reviews of Parliamentary constituencies in UK)(Part 1) 1981 Feb 19 1986 Feb 20 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/2776 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; draft White Paper) (Part 19) 1989 Jan 23 1989 Feb 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1256 Government machinery (Location of proposed Hazardous Waste Inspectorate) 1982 Oct 1 1984 Oct 26 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3177 Soviet Union (Policy towards the Soviet Union: call on Prime Minister by Robert Conquest; Soviet and East European studies) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 13 1990 Jun 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2151 European Policy (Community Trade Marks Office) (Part 1) 1983 Sep 23 1987 Apr 6 2016 Jul 21

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