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
PREM19/2104 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 37) 1987 Feb 5 1987 Jul 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1524 Home Affairs (Monopolies and Mergers papers) (Part 1) 1981 Dec 10 1985 Dec 19 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2808 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's visits to government departments: consideration of regional visits) (Part 4) 1987 Jul 24 1989 Sep 9 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2157 European Policy (European Council meeting, Copenhagen, December 1987) (Part 27) 1986 Sep 22 1987 Dec 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2758 Legal Procedure (The jury system in Britain) 1988 Oct 27 1989 Jan 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1881 Parliament (Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 5 1986 Apr 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2465 Regional Policy (Inner Cities Initiative: launch by Prime Minister of 'Action for Cities'; function of Chancellor of Duchy of Lancaster as Minister coordinating inner city policy; review of Cabinet Office Unit under Eric Sorensen) (Part 13) 1988 Mar 1 1988 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1983 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy; Prime Minister's 'Better Made in Britain' seminar, 25 February 1986) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 3 1986 Mar 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2628 Economic Policy (The 1989 Budget) (Part 18) 1988 Apr 5 1989 Nov 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1784 Home Affairs (Prime Minister's seminar on crime prevention, January 1986) (Part 1) 1985 Aug 8 1986 Mar 20 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1364 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with delegation of West German industrialists, April 1984) 1982 Sep 16 1984 Jan 24 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2378 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 16) 1987 Feb 2 1987 Oct 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/364 Security (Policy on interception) (Part 2) 1980 Mar 21 1980 Apr 11 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2490 Security (Intelligence Co-ordinator in the Cabinet Office: proposed appointment of the Sir Anthony Duff and his successors) 1980 Jun 18 1988 Oct 17 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1704 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 14) 1986 Jul 9 1986 Oct 29 2014 Dec 30

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