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 descending Link to selections
PREM19/3158 Scotland (Regional policy: industrial policy; Scottish Enterprise) (Part 2) 1988 Dec 1 1990 Nov 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2918 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy: Broadcasting Bill) (Part 11) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2087 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 19) 1988 Jul 1 1988 Oct 28 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2244 Industrial Policy (Possible sale by the Laird Group of Metro-Cammell) 1985 Sep 26 1986 Apr 18 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2962 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power; fast reactor programme) (Part 13) 1988 Jun 1 1990 Aug 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2738 Industrial Policy (Research and development, including European Community framework programme for research and development) (Part 7) 1989 Sep 1 1989 Dec 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1856 National Health (Private Medical Care) 1979 May 22 1986 Feb 17 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2729 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 14) 1989 Jan 6 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2144 European Policy (Prime Minister's opening of EUREKA Ministerial Conference, London, June 1986: European capability in new technology) 1986 Jan 7 1986 Jun 16 2016 Nov 7 2
PREM19/2597 China (Internal situation in China) (Part 1) 1979 May 30 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1772 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; White Paper on deregulation) (Part 20) 1985 Dec 1 1986 May 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1352 Prime Minister (Allegations by Paddy Ashdown MP about Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operations against British companies in the computer technology field allegedly embargo-breaking) 1984 May 9 1984 Dec 14 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2456 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to the Soviet Union, March-April 1987: administrative arrangements) (Part 2) 1987 Apr 2 1987 Sep 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1966 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 9) 1986 Mar 3 1986 May 30 2016 Feb 19 2
PREM19/2471 Royal Family (Marriage of the Earl of St Andrews, son of the Duke and Duchess of Kent) 1986 Dec 5 1986 Dec 8 Retained Retained Sec 3.4

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