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
PREM19/1255 Government machinery (Griffiths Report on the House of Fraser) 1984 Aug 2 1984 Aug 6 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2148 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 16) 1987 Feb 10 1987 Mar 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2808 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's visits to government departments: consideration of regional visits) (Part 4) 1987 Jul 24 1989 Sep 9 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2420 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Roger Gale MP to discuss the employment problems of the Isle of Thanet, 13 January 1987. Note: With map) 1986 Dec 15 1987 May 18 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1744 Environmental Affairs (World Conservation Strategy: 'Conservation and Development - the British Approach') 1980 Jun 25 1986 May 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2134 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power; the Sizewell Report) (Part 10) 1986 Jun 2 1987 Jan 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2976 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 46) 1990 May 1 1990 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1351 Prime Minister (Election of Prime Minister as Honorary Bencher of Gray’s Inn) 1983 Feb 9 1984 Dec 6 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2261 Information and Publicity (Relations between the Civil Service and the press; role of Chief Press Secretary, No 10 Downing Street) 1979 Dec 7 1988 Oct 7 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2719 Home Affairs (Lead in the environment: reports of the Lawther Working Party (1980) and Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (1983)) 1980 Mar 20 1989 Feb 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2070 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: European Fighter Aircraft (EFA)) (Part 5) 1987 Jan 6 1988 Mar 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2601 Civil Service (Position of the Head of the Civil Service) 1987 Jun 25 1987 Jun 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1837 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation) (Part 4) 1986 Jan 3 1986 Aug 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1228 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 24) 1984 Apr 2 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2384 Parliament (MPs' pay and pensions) (Part 6) 1985 Sep 4 1987 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21 2

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