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 classification Pagessort ascending Link to selections
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
PREM19/2630 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 20) 1988 Nov 4 1989 Aug 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1746 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 13) 1985 Jan 7 1986 Mar 19 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1403 USA (Visit to UK by Donald Rumsfeld, President Reagan’s special Middle East envoy: meeting with Prime Minister) 1984 Jan 16 1984 Jan 20 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2260 Information and Publicity (Media coverage of Wiltshire arrests: Home Office guidance circular to journal editors on terrorist threat to VIPs) 1987 Sep 15 1987 Sep 16 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3185 Soviet Union (Possible visit to the UK by President Gorbachev in 1991) 1990 Oct 25 1990 Oct 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2492 Security (Terrorist activity and extremism in Great Britain, including threat to UK nuclear facilities and nuclear materials) (Part 4) 1987 Oct 19 1988 Sep 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1664 Aerospace (British Aerospace (BAe): shares for employees) 1980 May 3 1986 Jul 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/120 Security (Security of the Secret Services - Anthony Blunt) 1979 May 8 1979 Nov 23 Temporarily Retained by Department Unknown
PREM19/1323 Nationalised industries (Pay of Chairmen and Board members) (Part 2) 1981 Dec 4 1984 May 29 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2855 Social Services (Statutory right to paid time off for ante-natal care) 1980 Mar 10 1989 Sep 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2971 Environmental Affairs (World Commission on Environment and Development: Bergen Conference 'Action for a Common Future', May 1990) 1988 Jul 5 1990 Feb 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2135 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power; Layfield report on new Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR), Sizewell 'B'; doctrine of collective responsibility aspect of Energy Secretary's decision to accept Layfield recommendation; study by Advisory Council on Applied Research and Development (ACARD) on UK future nuclear reactor programme) (Part 11) 1987 Feb 4 1987 Nov 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2073 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 12) 1986 Mar 14 1987 May 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2482 Scotland (Report of the Royal Commission on Legal Service in Scotland) 1980 Apr 21 1987 Dec 2 2016 Jul 21

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