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 descending Link to selections
PREM19/3080 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 27) 1990 Sep 1 1990 Sep 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2394 Prime Minister (Mark Thatcher and the Omanis: other allegations against Mark Thatcher) 1984 Jan 1 1988 Nov 9 Retained Closed for 40 years
PREM19/1683 Civil Service (Long term management and manpower policy: control of civil service running costs; duties and responsibilities of civil servants; performance bonus experiment; budgeting in government dePartments) (Part 18) 1985 Sep 10 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1340 Parliament (Queen's speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising the State Opening) (Part 5) 1982 Oct 27 1984 Oct 31 Retained Retained
PREM19/2224 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: increase in the prison population) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 12 1987 Oct 27 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/2941 Economic Policy (Brandt Commission memorandum 'Common Crisis': 'Facing One World', report by an Independent Group on Financial Flows to Developing Countries) (Part 5) 1983 Jan 27 1990 Sep 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2098 Economic Policy (Pension funds) 1987 Mar 24 1987 Jul 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1598 Police (Police pay) 1979 May 8 1985 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2620 Disasters (Disaster at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, 15 April 1989) (Part 1) 1989 Apr 15 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2111 Economic Policy (Bank takeovers and mergers; takeover bids for Royal Bank of Scotland Group, 1981) 1981 Apr 8 1987 Jul 6 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2751 Japan (Lunches at Chequers in honour of Prince Naruhito (1984) and Prince Fumihito (1989)) 1983 Dec 20 1989 Apr 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1873 Nationalised Industries (Nationalised Industries' Chairmen's Group) 1980 Mar 31 1986 Apr 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1234 European policy (Elections to European Parliament) (Part 1) 1979 May 16 1984 Mar 19 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2439 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Hanover, June 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Jun 18 1988 Jul 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1931 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base; the science budget; the Engineer and Technology Programme; increase in graduate engineers and technologists) (Part 3) 1985 Apr 2 1985 Jun 28 2016 Feb 19

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