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
PREM19/2932 Defence (Future UK defence policy) (Part 4) 1989 Apr 11 1990 Jul 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2096 Economic Policy (Public sector pensions; Scott Report on the Value of Pensions) (Part 4) 1982 Jun 4 1988 Jun 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1595 Parliament (Cost of Parliament: report of Select Committee on Procedure (Finance)) 1980 May 16 1985 Apr 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1256 Government machinery (Location of proposed Hazardous Waste Inspectorate) 1982 Oct 1 1984 Oct 26 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2608 Congo (UK/Congolese relations: visit to the UK by President Sassou-Nguesso; meeting with Prime Minister, 17 February 1987) 1982 Sep 13 1989 Aug 10 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2109 Economic Policy (Toronto Economic Summit: Prime Minister's Personal Representative for Economic Summits; briefing for third meeting of Personal Representatives ('Sherpas'), Paris, May 1988) (Part 2) 1988 Mar 1 1988 May 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2747 Ireland (Review of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976: prevention of terrorism legislation) 1980 Jan 31 1989 Jan 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1871 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy; British Shipbuilders) (Part 10) 1986 May 1 1986 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21 1
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
PREM19/2616 Defence (Deployment of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) in Europe) (Part 5) 1984 Jul 5 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1777 Government Machinery (Possible transfer of responsibility for VAT Tribunals from Customs and Excise to the Lord Chancellor: dePartmental responsibility for tribunals) 1985 Apr 1 1986 Dec 4 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/85 Ireland (Information policy - correspondence with HRH Prince of Wales) 1979 Nov 16 1979 Dec 17 2020 Jan 1 Unknown
PREM19/2346 National Health (Primary health care: draft White Paper) (Part 1) 1986 Mar 6 1988 Oct 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3147 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to the Soviet Union, June 1990: administrative arrangements) 1989 Oct 6 1990 Jun 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2476 Saudi Arabia (Visits by Crown Prince Abdullah, February 1984 and June 1988) 1982 Oct 7 1988 Jun 21 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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