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
PREM19/2197 Government Machinery (Reduction in number of circulars from government departments to local authorities) 1979 May 8 1987 Jul 6 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1779 Government Machinery (Proposed merger of General Electric Company (GEC) and Plessey: possible referral to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission) 1986 Jan 17 1986 Jun 10 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2629 Economic Policy (International finance: indebtedness of various countries) (Part 7) 1987 Nov 9 1989 May 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1962 Social Services (Assistance with fuel costs; alternatives to electricity discount scheme; home insulation scheme; severe weather payments) (Part 1) 1979 May 21 1986 Feb 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2458 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Turkey, April 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jan 5 1988 May 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2315 Manpower (Special employment measures: employment and training programmes and organisation) (Part 15) 1986 Nov 4 1987 Apr 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1308 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 23) 1984 Oct 2 1984 Nov 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1655 USA (Visits to UK by George Shultz, US Secretary of State: meetings with Prime Minister) 1982 Apr 9 1985 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3041 Industrial Policy (The Finniston Committee of Inquiry into the Engineering Profession: Engineering Council) 1979 Dec 17 1990 Apr 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1524 Home Affairs (Monopolies and Mergers papers) (Part 1) 1981 Dec 10 1985 Dec 19 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1890 Prime Minister (Meeting with Geoffrey Dickens MP about child welfare and protection, 30 January 1986) 1986 Jan 15 1986 Feb 21 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2783 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: industrial energy policy; privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 16) 1989 Jan 5 1989 Aug 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2157 European Policy (European Council meeting, Copenhagen, December 1987) (Part 27) 1986 Sep 22 1987 Dec 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2837 Science and Technology (Consideration of British candidates for Nobel Prizes for science) 1989 Apr 11 1989 Apr 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1900 Prime Minister (Allegations by Mail on Sunday newspaper of Prime Minister's involvement in share-dealing whilst in office) 1986 Mar 24 1986 May 29 2015 Dec 30

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