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
PREM19/2468 Royal Family (Career of the Duke of Kent: possibility of his taking on an unpaid non-executive board appointment in the public sector) 1979 May 23 1987 Apr 9 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/3020 Home Affairs (Sentencing policy: Criminal Justice Bill) (Part 4) 1990 Jan 12 1990 Sep 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1689 Defence (Development of torpedoes) 1979 Jul 20 1986 Dec 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1346 Posts and telecommunications (Telephone rental and standing charges) 1982 Mar 12 1983 May 12 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2560 United Nations (Call on Prime Minister by Sir Anthony Parsons, UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations, August 1979: valedictory despatch by Sir John Thomson, UK Permanent Representative, April 1987) 1979 Jul 6 1987 Apr 15 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/2949 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 44) 1990 Jan 5 1990 Aug 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2105 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 38) 1987 Aug 4 1988 Mar 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1604 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Sir Peter Blaker MP and Norman Miscampbell MP, January 1985: loss by Blackpool of Assisted Area Status) 1984 Nov 28 1985 Jan 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2118 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure; future of polytechnics) (Part 11) 1987 Jan 22 1987 Feb 28 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2759 Legal Procedure (The legal position of the need for the Prime Minister to give evidence in the trial of Ron Brown MP) 1982 Sep 1 1989 Apr 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1882 Parliament (Queen's Speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising proceedings of the House of Commons) (Part 6) 1984 Nov 2 1986 Mar 11 2016 Jul 21 4
PREM19/2413 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Lord Sieff) 1980 Apr 8 1987 Jun 16 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1937 Science and Technology (Collyear Report on new materials technology) 1984 Aug 8 1986 Jan 9 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2315 Manpower (Special employment measures: employment and training programmes and organisation) (Part 15) 1986 Nov 4 1987 Apr 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2629 Economic Policy (International finance: indebtedness of various countries) (Part 7) 1987 Nov 9 1989 May 19 2016 Dec 30

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