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
PREM19/3120 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Jan Steyn, head of the Urban Foundation in South Africa) 1988 May 13 1990 May 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2347 National Health (Primary health care: White Paper 'Promoting Better Health') (Part 2) 1987 Nov 2 1988 Jul 20 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1550 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 9) 1985 Jul 1 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2032 Cambodia (Internal situation: derecognition of Pol Pot regime; Prince Sihanouk) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 16 1988 Nov 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2864 South Africa (Visits to London by South African Finance Ministers: Senator Owen Horwood (October 1979) and Barend du Plessis (April 1989)) 1979 Jun 19 1989 Apr 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1290 Ireland (Anglo-Irish economic co-operation; supply of natural gas from Irish Republic field at Kinsale to Northern Ireland) 1979 May 10 1984 Sep 5 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2191 Government Machinery (Access of the Comptroller and Auditor General to Cabinet papers and Treasury documents) 1987 Nov 5 1988 Feb 12 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1773 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; Efficiency Unit report on 'The Use of Value for Money Targets 1985-86', volume II) 1986 Apr 1 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2621 Disasters (Disaster at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, 15 April 1989) (Part 2) 1989 Aug 1 1990 Apr 10 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1939 Science and Technology (Intellectual property rights and innovation; future of Patent Office; patents for pharmaceutical industry) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 2 1986 Mar 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2452 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris, November 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Nov 23 1988 Nov 29 2016 Jul 21
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
PREM19/1383 Security (Access to classified documents by members of Conservative Research Department; case of Tony Hutt, adviser to Secretary of State for the Environment) 1983 Dec 22 1984 Jan 12 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1884 Parliament (Parliamentary Maritime Group: Prime Minister's meeting with Sir Edward du Cann, 8 July 1986) 1985 Apr 25 1986 Jul 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2771 Maldives (Visits to the UK by President Gayoom of the Maldives) (Part 3) 1981 Aug 10 1989 Mar 22 2016 Dec 30

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