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
PREM19/287 Legal Procedure (Proposed amendment to Act of Settlement 1701) 1980 Jul 8 1980 Oct 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1798 Hong Kong (Nomenclature in Hong Kong passports: requests for British citizenship) 1982 Oct 4 1986 Jun 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2658 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Environmental Protection Bill) (Part 12) 1989 Nov 1 1989 Nov 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1990 Transport (London Regional Transport) (Part 1) 1983 Nov 3 1986 Nov 27 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1378 Security (Leakage of NATO Alliance documents to Soviet Union by official in Belgian Foreign Ministry) 1984 Aug 3 1984 Aug 6 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2521 Social Services (Social Services Committee report on perinatal mortality and morbidity; independent review of morbidity in the Bonnybridge/Denny area (near Falkirk)) 1980 Nov 14 1987 May 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1727 Education (Training: White Paper on vocational education and training for jobs; extension of technical and vocational education; proposed National Council for Vocational Qualifications (NCVQ)) (Part 2) 1984 Jan 3 1986 Jun 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3097 Nationalised Industries (Coal mines) (Part 21) 1987 Nov 4 1990 Jun 28 2016 Dec 30
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
PREM19/2340 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review) (Part 14) 1988 Jul 1 1988 Sep 30 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
PREM19/2012 Aerospace (Space policy) (Part 3) 1987 Jul 14 1988 Nov 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2835 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget) (Part 8) 1988 Dec 1 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2183 France (Visits to UK by Raymond Barre, December 1981, April 1983, January 1986 and March 1987) 1980 Dec 1 1987 Mar 25 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3008 Government Machinery (Future of the Crown Agents: guidelines on procedure for tribunals of inquiry) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 18 1990 Jun 5 2016 Dec 30

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