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 Endssort descending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2031 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; subscription television; independent television producers; Broadcasting White Paper) (Part 6) 1988 Jan 4 1988 Sep 30 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
PREM19/2124 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: Education Reform Bill; education in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland; financial delegation; grant maintained schools; national curriculum; future of Paisley Grammar School; charges forschool activities; opting out of Local Education Authority (LEA) control; religious education) (Part 17) 1988 Jan 7 1988 Mar 30 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2086 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 18) 1988 Jan 9 1988 Jun 24 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2262 Information and Publicity (Possible separate Press Office for Attorney General's Office: deferment until after 'Spycatcher' case) 1988 Jan 11 1988 Jan 20 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2479 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget; national priorities for science and technology) (Part 7) 1988 Jan 12 1988 Jan 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2206 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 26) 1988 Jan 14 1988 Feb 26 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2429 Prime Minister (Possible defamation of the Prime Minister by the Radio 4 'Today' programme) 1988 Jan 18 1988 Jan 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2454 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to NATO Summit, March 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jan 19 1988 Mar 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2443 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Australia, August 1988: administrative arrangements) (Part 1) 1988 Jan 20 1988 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2412 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Chilver, 13 April 1988) 1988 Jan 20 1988 Apr 14 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2159 European Policy (European Council meeting, Brussels, February 1988) (Part 28) 1988 Jan 21 1988 Feb 22 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2207 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 27) 1988 Jan 21 1988 Aug 5 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2400 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with a delegation of Muslim religious leaders, 28 April 1988) 1988 Jan 28 1988 Jun 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2559 Turkey (Prime Minister's visit to Turkey, April 1988) (Part 1) 1988 Feb 1 1988 Jul 4 2016 Jul 21

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