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
PREM19/2577 Prime Minister (Personal correspondence with Princess Margaret) 1980 Jan 9 1980 Feb 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2334 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS)) (Part 8) 1987 Feb 10 1987 Sep 14 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3097 Nationalised Industries (Coal mines) (Part 21) 1987 Nov 4 1990 Jun 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2396 Prime Minister (Cementation contract: Mark Thatcher and the Omanis) (Part 2) 1984 Jan 15 1988 Mar 19 Retained Closed for 65 years
PREM19/1685 Civil Service (Pay and pensions: pay dispute; review of early retirement arrangements) (Part 15) 1985 Apr 7 1986 May 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1342 Portugal (Visits to UK by Prime Minister Dr Sa Carneiro (May 1980), Vice Prime Minister Professor Freitas do Amaral (November 1982) and Prime Minister Dr Mario Soares (November 1984); meetings with Prime Minister) 1980 Mar 17 1984 Dec 17 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2225 Home Affairs (Possible 'Festival of Britain' in 1991) 1987 Oct 2 1987 Oct 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2943 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 21) 1989 Sep 5 1990 Apr 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2100 Economic Policy (Policy on small firms; Local Enterprise Agencies) (Part 6) 1985 May 1 1987 Jan 2 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1600 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with John Blackburn MP about closure of Round Oak Steelworks, Dudley) 1982 Dec 4 1983 Mar 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1260 Home affairs (Review of police conduct of Yorkshire Ripper (Peter Sutcliffe) case by HM Inspector of Constabulary, Lawrence Byford; transfer of Peter Sutcliffe to Broadmoor) 1980 Nov 25 1984 Mar 26 Retained Retained
PREM19/2650 Education (Student loans: White Paper on Student Support) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 6 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2113 Education (Department of Education and Science (DES) draft circular 'Providing for Quality: the Pattern of Organisation to Age 19': proposed consultation) 1986 Jun 30 1986 Jul 21 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2753 Japan (Prime Minister's visit to Japan, September 1989) (Part 3a) 1989 Apr 27 1989 Sep 15 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1876 Norway (Prime Minister's visit to Norway, September 1986) 1982 Nov 16 1986 Oct 7 2016 Jul 21

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