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
PREM19/2405 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Dennis Canavan MP, 17 December 1987) 1984 Sep 11 1988 Jan 11 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1861 National Health (Prime Minister's dinner for Regional Health Authority Chairmen, 25 September 1986) 1986 Jul 15 1986 Nov 3 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2539 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 7) 1987 Feb 3 1987 Apr 21 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1744 Environmental Affairs (World Conservation Strategy: 'Conservation and Development - the British Approach') 1980 Jun 25 1986 May 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1401 United Nations (Dinner for members of United Nations Administrative Committee on Coordination, April 1984) 1983 Oct 17 1984 May 10 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2307 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 8) 1987 Aug 3 1987 Nov 12 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3028 Home Affairs (The campaign against and the use of chemical herbicides, especially 2,4,5-T: pesticide policy) 1980 Jun 1 1990 Apr 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2279 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 25) 1988 Sep 1 1988 Sep 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1662 Civil Service (Industrial relations in the Civil Service: Department of Health and Social Security industrial action) 1979 Sep 5 1985 Oct 14 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1321 National health (Future of optical services; end of opticians' monopoly on sale of spectacles) 1983 Apr 15 1984 Nov 19 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/983 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 21) 1982 Oct 1 1983 Jan 24 2013 Aug 1
PREM19/1674 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 40) 1985 May 2 1986 Jun 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2201 Government Machinery (Review of the Lobby system of briefing journalists) 1981 Oct 27 1987 Jul 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2896 Disasters (Fire at King's Cross Underground Station, 18 November 1989) 1987 Nov 19 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2071 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: European Fighter Aircraft (EFA); Chieftain tank replacement;) (Part 6) 1988 Apr 1 1988 Oct 26 2016 Jul 21

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