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 Beginssort descending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2175 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain, September 1988) 1988 Aug 1 1988 Nov 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2652 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; London Conference on Saving the Ozone Layer, March 1989) (Part 6) 1988 Aug 1 1989 Jan 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2985 European Policy (Participation by the UK in cases before the European Courts) 1988 Aug 2 1990 Dec 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2310 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 11) 1988 Aug 3 1988 Dec 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2239 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 13) 1988 Aug 5 1988 Dec 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2208 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 28) 1988 Aug 5 1988 Nov 29 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2485 Security (Correspondence between Tam Dalyell MP and Prime Minister concerning the programme 'Cabinet') 1988 Aug 28 1988 Oct 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2279 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 25) 1988 Sep 1 1988 Sep 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2527 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK ) (Part 17) 1988 Sep 1 1988 Dec 22 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2827 Regional Policy (Inner city policy and problems: Urban Development Corporations; 'Action for Cities'; regeneration of London Docklands) (Part 15) 1988 Sep 6 1989 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
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
PREM19/2794 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 18) 1988 Sep 30 1989 Sep 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2280 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 26) 1988 Oct 1 1988 Dec 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2170 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 40) 1988 Oct 3 1989 Feb 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2593 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy) (Part 7) 1988 Oct 3 1989 Apr 27 2016 Dec 30

Pages