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 descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2432 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Poland, November 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Feb 1 1988 Nov 6 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1863 National Health (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)) (Part 1) 1985 Aug 28 1986 Dec 31 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2688 Foreign Policy (Consular Fees (Amendment) Bill: increases in consular fees) 1979 Jul 10 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2028 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; Peacock Report on Financing the BBC; BBC proposal for a world television news service) (Part 3) 1986 Jul 1 1987 Feb 21 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1259 Guinea (Visits to UK by Guinea Ministers; Prime Minister's meeting with Prime Minister Diarra Traore) 1984 Jan 23 1984 Jul 4 2014 Jan 3 2
PREM19/3158 Scotland (Regional policy: industrial policy; Scottish Enterprise) (Part 2) 1988 Dec 1 1990 Nov 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2355 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 15) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Dec 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1732 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 8) 1986 Oct 10 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1601 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's visit to Lloyd's of London: note of meeting with chairman Peter Miller, February 1985) 1985 Jan 18 1985 Feb 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2655 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Prime Minister's seminar on the global climate, April 1989; part 9. Orderable at item level.) (Part 9) 1989 Apr 2 1989 Apr 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2880 Trade (Britain's international trading policies: General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Uruguay Round; export promotion) (Part 6) 1987 Feb 18 1989 Aug 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2200 Government Machinery (Future of Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) and nuclear Royal Ordnance Factories; privatisation of Royal Ordnance Factories) 1980 Sep 22 1988 Jul 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2631 Economic Policy (Exchange rate: exchange control policy) (Part 3) 1987 Jan 29 1989 May 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1355 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Paul Volcker, Chairman of US Federal Reserve) 1981 Jan 27 1984 Dec 13 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1964 Social Services (National Insurance contributions review; National Insurance surcharge; Redundancy Fund) 1979 Nov 5 1985 Nov 7 2016 Feb 19

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