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
PREM19/3213 Prime Minister (Resignation of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister) 1990 Nov 20 1991 Nov 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2378 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 16) 1987 Feb 2 1987 Oct 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2908 Arts and Amenities (Future of the British Library: Prime Minister's meetings with Lord Trend and Sir Frederick Dainton and Minister for the Arts, Richard Luce) 1979 Aug 21 1990 May 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2218 Home Affairs (Home Secretary's seminar on crime prevention, June 1986, and subsequent action) (Part 2) 1986 Apr 10 1987 Jul 24 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1800 Immigration (Immigration rules) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 2 1986 Mar 26 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2664 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 43) 1989 Oct 2 1989 Nov 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1993 Transport (Policy on roads: White Papers; roads programme) (Part 2) 1981 Dec 16 1986 Mar 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2523 Social Services (Pensions: portable pensions; Inquiry into Provision for Retirement; consultation document on personal pensions) 1983 Sep 30 1988 Feb 19 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1675 Australia (Visits of Australian Prime Ministers to London: Malcolm Fraser (February 1980 and July 1981) and Robert Hawke (June 1983 and April 1986); meetings with the Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 21 1986 Apr 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3099 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 19) 1990 May 1 1990 Nov 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2342 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; draft White Paper) (Part 16) 1988 Nov 16 1988 Dec 16 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/1545 Ireland (Cases of Marian Price, Dolours Rea (nee Price), Pauline McLaughlin, Robert Cardwell and the Gillespie sisters: pleas for release from imprisonment) 1980 Apr 29 1985 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 6
PREM19/2014 Agriculture (Agricultural expenditure) (Part 2) 1986 Nov 6 1987 Nov 11 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2838 Scotland (Scottish High Court judges: possible homosexual scandal) 1989 Dec 22 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2185 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Germany: Prime Minister's visit with Kohl to British Forces Germany; part 6. Note: With map) (Part 6) 1986 Aug 21 1987 Sep 12 2016 Jul 21

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