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 descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1745 European Policy (European Council meeting, The Hague, June 1986) (Part 25) 1985 Apr 23 1986 Jul 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1268 Housing (Housing policy; Housing and Building Control Bill; housing defects; council house sales) (Part 4) 1983 Jan 24 1984 Dec 21 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2977 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 47) 1990 Jul 2 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2262 Information and Publicity (Possible separate Press Office for Attorney General's Office: deferment until after 'Spycatcher' case) 1988 Jan 11 1988 Jan 20 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2721 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: industrial action by the Prison Officers Association; private sector involvement in the remand system) (Part 4) 1987 Nov 2 1989 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2076 Downing Street (Organisation and function of the Prime Minister's Policy Unit: access to papers by members of the Policy Unit; relations with the Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS)) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1987 Feb 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2602 Civil Service (Proposed BBC TV series on the Civil Service: ITV and radio programmes on Whitehall) 1979 Jul 3 1989 Apr 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1838 Local Government (Water industry: structural change) (Part 3) 1985 Dec 2 1986 Apr 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1364 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with delegation of West German industrialists, April 1984) 1982 Sep 16 1984 Jan 24 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2385 Poland (Prime Minister's visit to Poland, November 1988; part 1. Note: With photograph ) (Part 1) 1988 Mar 29 1988 Oct 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2084 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 16) 1986 Oct 1 1987 Jun 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2926 Civil Service (Speeches by the Heads of the Civil Service, Sir Robert Armstrong and Sir Robin Butler) 1985 Jun 14 1990 Oct 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2226 Home Affairs (Review of entry clearance policy; implementation of the Keith Report on the enforcement powers of the Revenue Departments; Crown Prosecution Service) (Part 3) 1986 Mar 14 1988 Jul 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1806 Industrial policy (Short Borthers Ltd) 1980 Nov 6 1986 Aug 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2672 European Policy (Meeting of European Community leaders to discuss the situation in Eastern Europe, Paris, 18 November 1989) 1989 Nov 13 1989 Nov 30 2016 Dec 30

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