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 ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/294 Memoirs (BBC programmes based on Lord Mountbatten’s memoirs) 1980 Jan 16 1980 Nov 11 2015 Jun 23
PREM19/3089 Ministers (Prime Minister's meetings with Junior Ministers) 1979 Jun 6 1990 Sep 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2339 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review) (Part 13) 1988 Jun 1 1988 Jun 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1326 Nationalised industries (Shipbuilding policy; prospects for British Shipbuilders) (Part 6) 1984 Jan 27 1984 May 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2011 Aerospace (Space policy) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 4 1987 May 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2833 Royal Family (Visits to Northern Ireland by the Duke and Duchess of Kent) 1980 Mar 31 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2182 France (Prime Minister's visits to France, November 1986 and March and July 1987) (Part 5) 1986 Oct 21 1987 Oct 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3006 Germany (Visit to London by Count Otto Lambsdorff, Chairman of the FDP (Free Democrats), January 1990) 1979 May 17 1990 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2594 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy) (Part 8) 1989 May 2 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1923 Romania (UK/Romania relations; Northern Engineering Industries Ltd bid for supply of turbine generator; deportation of Stancu Papusoiu) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 27 1986 Jun 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2444 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain, September 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Dec 6 1988 Nov 14 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/3011 Government Machinery (Management and financing of the Registration Service; future of the Office of Population, Censuses and Surveys) 1983 Sep 23 1990 Jan 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2304 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 5) 1986 Sep 2 1987 Jan 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1873 Nationalised Industries (Nationalised Industries' Chairmen's Group) 1980 Mar 31 1986 Apr 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2759 Legal Procedure (The legal position of the need for the Prime Minister to give evidence in the trial of Ron Brown MP) 1982 Sep 1 1989 Apr 11 2016 Dec 30

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