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?sort ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2233 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 7) 1987 Feb 2 1987 Mar 20 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/132 Zambia (Policy) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Jul 23 Closed
PREM19/1588 New Zealand (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers Robert Muldoon and David Lange: briefs) (Part 1 annex) 1979 May 14 1985 Mar 4 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/477 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Rayner Scrutiny Programme) (Part 7) 1980 Nov 26 1981 Feb 2 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 260
PREM19/1249 Government machinery (Review of government statistical services: final draft report and report to Prime Minister) 1980 Oct 1 1980 Dec 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2904 Agriculture (Salmonella and eggs) (Part 1) 1988 Dec 8 1990 Feb 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/51 European policy (European Council, Strasbourg June 1979) Part 01 1979 May 30 1979 Jun 27 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 407
PREM19/2079 Economic Policy (Budget) (Part 16) 1986 May 12 1987 Sep 4 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/732 Education (Secondary school education; legislation to remove the compulsion for comprehensive education; the Education Bill; local authority arrangements for school curriculum) (Part 1) 1979 May 14 1981 Oct 14 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 236
PREM19/1507 Germany (Visit to UK by Helmut Kohl, West German Chancellor, May 1985: Anglo-German Summit in London, November 1985; meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 9) 1985 Jan 18 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 401
PREM19/2657 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; proposed White Paper on the Environment; part 11. Orderable at item level.) (Part 11) 1989 Jun 5 1989 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1171 Arts and amenities (The Royal Academy Appeal) 1984 Jun 8 1984 Dec 31 2014 Jan 3 Unclassified 44
PREM19/2732 Hungary (Visits to the UK by Prime Ministers Karoly Grosz, (May 1988) and Miklos Nemeth (December 1989)) 1987 Jul 28 1989 Dec 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/653 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 11) 1982 Oct 1 1982 Dec 23 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 146
PREM19/2448 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to NATO, February 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Sep 25 1988 Feb 22 2016 Jul 21

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