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
PREM19/1227 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 23B) 1984 Mar 1 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1443 Defence (Arms control) (Part 6B) 1985 Jan 4 1985 Feb 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2645 Education (General policy on education) (Part 22) 1989 Jul 3 1989 Dec 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1983 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy; Prime Minister's 'Better Made in Britain' seminar, 25 February 1986) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 3 1986 Mar 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2481 Scotland (Regional policy: industrial policy; draft White Paper on Scottish Enterprise) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 25 1988 Nov 30 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/3067 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 20) 1990 Jul 2 1990 Oct 31 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
PREM19/1321 National health (Future of optical services; end of opticians' monopoly on sale of spectacles) 1983 Apr 15 1984 Nov 19 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1989 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail pay; industrial action by NUR and ASLEF; possible line closures; British Rail finances) (Part 8) 1984 Jan 20 1986 Jul 31 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2818 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Germany, April 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Feb 24 1989 May 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2173 Foreign Policy (East/West relations; Moscow Summit, May-June 1988, between United States President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev) (Part 8) 1987 Dec 1 1988 Nov 15 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2966 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; environmental objectives and land use planning) (Part 14) 1990 Feb 6 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1760 France (Prime Minister's meeting with French Prime Minister, Laurent Fabius) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 4 1986 Oct 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1915 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Italy for Anglo-Italian Summit, Florence, March 1986: administrative arrangements) 1985 May 9 1986 Apr 28 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2439 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Hanover, June 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Jun 18 1988 Jul 4 2016 Dec 30

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