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
PREM19/3027 Home Affairs (Football hooliganism; Football Spectators Bill; Taylor Report on the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster) (Part 8) 1989 Feb 2 1990 Jan 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2278 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 24) 1988 Apr 1 1988 Aug 31 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2812 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Madrid for European Council meeting, June 1989: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jun 21 1989 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1320 National health (Seminar on health and social security, September 1983; Social Security Policy Reviews) (Part 1) 1983 Jul 26 1984 Jun 22 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2466 Regional Policy (Inner Cities Initiative: progress on 'Action for Cities'; Teesside development initiative; access to Cabinet and Prime Minister's office papers by National Audit Office for study on urban regeneration; Cardiff Bay Barrage) (Part 14) 1988 Jun 1 1988 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2200 Government Machinery (Future of Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) and nuclear Royal Ordnance Factories; privatisation of Royal Ordnance Factories) 1980 Sep 22 1988 Jul 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2894 Vietnam (Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong; resettlement in the UK) (Part 4) 1981 Mar 3 1989 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2069 Defence (Nuclear release procedures) (Part 4) 1983 Mar 1 1987 Oct 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2051 Cyprus (Visits to UK by President Kyprianou and his successor President George Vassiliou) (Part 2) 1985 Mar 6 1988 Dec 21 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2717 Home Affairs (Data protection: computer hacking) (Part 2) 1987 Oct 12 1989 May 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1838 Local Government (Water industry: structural change) (Part 3) 1985 Dec 2 1986 Apr 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1496 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) (Part 1) 1985 Dec 13 1985 Mar 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2420 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Roger Gale MP to discuss the employment problems of the Isle of Thanet, 13 January 1987. Note: With map) 1986 Dec 15 1987 May 18 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2421 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Ryoich Sasakawa, Chairman of the Federation of World Volunteer Fire-Fighters Associations, 3 October 1987) 1988 Sep 29 1988 Oct 3 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1901 Prime Minister (Tam Dalyell's motion on conduct of Prime Minister) 1986 Jun 4 1986 Jun 5 2016 Feb 19

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