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
PREM19/1788 Home Affairs (Family Policy Group: renewing the values of society) (Part 3) 1983 Mar 2 1986 Sep 8 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2875 Sri Lanka (UK/Sri Lanka relations: aid to Sri Lanka; internal situation) (Part 3) 1986 Mar 3 1989 Sep 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2640 Economic Policy (Vehicle Excise Duty) 1979 May 14 1989 May 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1903 Prime Minister (Meeting with Warren Hawksley MP to discuss procurement of Thyssen TM170 armoured personnel carriers for Berlin) 1986 Jan 6 1986 Feb 4 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2429 Prime Minister (Possible defamation of the Prime Minister by the Radio 4 'Today' programme) 1988 Jan 18 1988 Jan 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1317 National health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS); NHS Management Inquiry Report (Griffiths Report); priorities and policies for health and personal social services) (Part 2) 1983 Apr 7 1984 Feb 20 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1664 Aerospace (British Aerospace (BAe): shares for employees) 1980 May 3 1986 Jul 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2985 European Policy (Participation by the UK in cases before the European Courts) 1988 Aug 2 1990 Dec 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2287 Japan (Visit to UK by Yasuhiro Nakasone, Prime Minister of Japan, June 1984) (Part 1) 1984 Feb 16 1987 Oct 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1971 South Korea (UK/South Korea relations; internal situation; death of President Park; election and resignation of President Choi Kya-hah; inauguration of President Chun Doo-hwan; visit of President Chun to UK and meeting with Prime Minister, 9 April 1986) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 27 1986 Aug 21 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2736 Industrial Policy (Information technology (IT): Government policy towards IT) (Part 5) 1987 Feb 2 1989 Mar 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2102 Economic Policy (Policy towards privatisation; disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions) (Part 16) 1987 Apr 1 1988 Dec 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2651 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 11) 1987 Oct 2 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2573 Yugoslavia (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 17 1988 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1285 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 15) 1984 Jan 6 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 4

Pages