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
PREM19/2229 Home Affairs (Mr Justice May's Inquiry into the UK Prison Service; Prison Service pay and dispute; appointment of a Prisons Inspectorate; prison population) 1979 Oct 4 1986 Apr 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1243 France (Prime Minister's visits to France, May 1984 and November 1984) (Part 4) 1984 May 2 1984 Dec 11 2014 Jan 3 2
PREM19/1809 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach) (Part 12) 1985 Nov 15 1985 Nov 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2677 Food (Food safety) (Part 1) 1989 Jan 30 1989 Mar 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2024 Broadcasting (Legislation on broadcasting; Green Paper on radio policy; breakfast television) (Part 2) 1982 Oct 21 1988 Apr 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2555 Transport (Autoguide route guidance system) 1988 Feb 5 1988 Feb 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1680 Civil Service (Long term management and manpower policy: duties and responsibilities of civil servants; performance bonuses) (Part 19) 1986 May 2 1986 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3135 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Extraordinary European Council meeting in Rome, October 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Sep 27 1990 Oct 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2351 National Health (Spread of meningococcal meningitis) 1986 Mar 26 1987 Apr 3 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2038 Civil Service (Contracts of employment; possible legislation to enable civil servants to be laid off without pay; Civil Service nationality rules; responsibility for discipline in the Civil Service) 1980 Jun 27 1987 Jul 7 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2871 Soviet Union (Visit to the UK by General Dimitri Yazov, Soviet Defence Minister, July 1989) 1989 Jun 16 1989 Aug 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2195 Government Machinery (Proposed London Weekend Television (LWT) series on the Civil Service and the British system of government) 1985 Mar 29 1988 Apr 15 2016 Feb 19
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
PREM19/2627 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 43) 1989 Aug 2 1989 Dec 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1960 Social Services (Review of National Insurance position of the self-employed; assistance to small businesses; Prime Minister's meeting with National Federation of Self Employed and Small Businesses Ltd) 1980 May 15 1986 Jan 19 2016 Feb 19

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