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
PREM19/2783 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
PREM19/2426 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Toby Jessel MP about proposed closure of the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall, 21 January 1986) 1986 Jan 10 1987 Mar 20 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1750 European Policy (European Community Budget: report on UK applications for European Regional Development Grants) (Part 33) 1984 Oct 1 1986 Sep 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1622 Security (Judgement by European Court of Human Rights on Malone case: proposed legislation on interception of communications) 1980 Sep 29 1984 Jul 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2149 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 17) 1987 Apr 3 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2982 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS): economic and monetary union) (Part 6) 1989 Nov 16 1990 Apr 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1357 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Group of Eight, representing the construction industry, October 1982; pressure for greater financial assistance from government; complaint about local authority capital underspend) 1982 Jul 22 1983 Nov 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2283 Japan (Visits of Japanese CBI (Keidanren) to the UK, 1981 and 1986) 1981 Aug 24 1986 Oct 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2727 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 20) 1987 Oct 2 1989 Feb 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2091 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - Toronto) (Part 24) 1987 Jun 26 1988 Jun 11 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2620 Disasters (Disaster at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, 15 April 1989) (Part 1) 1989 Apr 15 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1234 European policy (Elections to European Parliament) (Part 1) 1979 May 16 1984 Mar 19 2014 Jan 3

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