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
PREM19/2437 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Copenhagen, December 1987: administrative arrangements) 1987 Aug 28 1987 Dec 3 2016 Jul 21 12
PREM19/1258 Government machinery (Appointment of Sir Anthony Parsons and Roger Jackling as advisers to Prime Minister on foreign affairs and defence policy respectively; improvements to joint intelligence machinery post Falklands Conflict) 1982 Aug 6 1984 Jan 18 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3000 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 3) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Mar 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2296 Legal Procedure (Quia timet injunctions) 1987 Feb 9 1987 Feb 25 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1856 National Health (Private Medical Care) 1979 May 22 1986 Feb 17 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2750 Japan (UK/Japanese relations: Nissan (UK) exports to Europe; UK-Japan 2000 Group) (Part 8) 1988 Jul 1 1989 Aug 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2117 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: future of polytechnics; funding regime for schools) (Part 10) 1986 Nov 3 1986 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2661 Environmental Affairs (The litter problem in the UK: briefing on the City of Westminster Bill; Westminster Initiative Report; part 1. Note: With photographs) (Part 1) 1985 Dec 11 1989 Apr 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1354 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Ralph Howell MP, seeking support for Employment Research Centre (ERC) of University of Buckingham, July 1983) 1983 Jul 5 1984 May 3 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1854 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Management Board) (Part 6) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Sep 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2408 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Gordon Brown MP to discuss redundancies and closures in his constituency, 29 January 1987) 1984 Nov 16 1987 Feb 24 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1231 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 27) 1984 Aug 1 1984 Oct 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1760 France (Prime Minister's meeting with French Prime Minister, Laurent Fabius) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 4 1986 Oct 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2105 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 38) 1987 Aug 4 1988 Mar 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2956 Education (General policy on education) (Part 25) 1990 Apr 2 1990 May 29 2016 Dec 30

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