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
PREM19/2119 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure; national school curriculum; financial delegation and opting out) (Part 12) 1987 Mar 2 1987 Apr 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2687 Foreign Policy (Correspondence with and about George Soros: economic proposals concerning the Soviet Union and Poland) 1987 Sep 3 1989 Sep 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1356 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Tom Clarke MP about closure of Speedwell Wire Company, Coatbridge, and assistance for Martin-Black Plc to secure British Gas contract) 1982 Dec 9 1983 Jan 14 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1670 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 5) 1986 Mar 3 1986 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1859 National Health (Study of leukaemia in Scotland) 1986 Jun 9 1986 Jun 9 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2410 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with John Browne MP, 21 October 1986: discussion of proposed M3 extension around Winchester. Note: With maps) 1981 Dec 7 1987 Apr 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1233 European policy (Public attitudes to Europe) 1980 Jun 18 1984 Jun 2 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1762 France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand) (Part 5) 1985 Oct 16 1986 Nov 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2107 Economic Policy (Public sector pay policy; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 13) 1984 Oct 4 1987 Jul 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2960 Education (Tuition fees for overseas students) 1980 Jun 4 1990 Aug 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2248 Industrial Policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 12) 1985 Mar 6 1987 Jan 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1449 Downing Street (250th ANNIVERSARY OF Prime Minister's residence at 10 Downing Street) 1984 Dec 10 1985 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2578 Defence (Rundown of Royal Dockyards at Chatham and Portsmouth: Chatham Historic Dockyard) 1982 Apr 19 1986 Jul 11 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/967 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; policy on Civil Service numbers, Financial Management Initiative; response to Select Committee report on efficiency and effectiveness in Civil Service; the extension of unified grading; obligations of managers) (Part 12) 1982 Dec 2 1983 May 24 2013 Aug 1
PREM19/2702 Government Machinery (Review of administrative forms) (Part 2) 1986 Nov 3 1989 Dec 19 2016 Dec 30

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