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?sort ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1670 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 5) 1986 Mar 3 1986 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2234 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 8) 1987 Apr 3 1987 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/133 European policy (European Council, Dublin Nov 1979 - briefing) 1979 Nov 19 1979 Nov 24 2009 Dec 30 Secret 418
PREM19/1589 Oman (UK policy: relations with Oman) (Part 1) 1979 May 18 1985 Jun 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/478 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Rayner Scrutiny Programme) (Part 8) 1981 Feb 2 1981 May 20 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 436
PREM19/1250 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Scrutiny Programme) (Part 14) 1983 Mar 1 1984 Feb 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2905 Agriculture (Salmonella and eggs) (Part 2) 1990 Apr 6 1990 Nov 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/52 European policy (European Council, Dublin Nov 1979) (Part 2) 1979 Oct 19 1979 Dec 7 2009 Dec 30 Secret 300
PREM19/2080 Economic Policy (Budget) (Part 17) 1987 Oct 2 1988 Mar 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/733 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 3 1982 Mar 31 2012 Dec 28 Secret 200
PREM19/1508 Government Machinery (Allocation of Ministerial responsibilities) 1979 May 8 1985 Oct 15 2014 Dec 30 Secret 123
PREM19/2659 Environmental Affairs (Benson Building, Islington) (Part 12) 1989 Jul 3 1989 Jul 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/398 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 2 1981 Oct 23 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 386
PREM19/1172 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; development of cable systems and services; broadcasting policy) (Part 4) 1983 May 25 1984 Apr 27 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 304
PREM19/2121 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure; national curriculum; bogus degrees; charges for school activities; grant maintained schools; counter-obstruction measures; education reform in Scotland and Wales; financial delegation) (Part 14) 1987 Jul 15 1987 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19

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