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 descending Link to selections
PREM19/1020 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 19) 1982 Nov 4 1983 Jan 31 Closed until 2019-01-01 Unknown
PREM19/2318 Manpower (Special employment measures: White Paper 'Training for Employment') (Part 18) 1987 Dec 1 1988 Feb 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3062 Local Government (Correspondence from Sir John Sainsbury on planning controls; general planning inquiries; future of development plans; Planning Bill) (Part 7) 1989 Sep 4 1990 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2332 National Health (Mortgages for NHS staff in London) 1987 Dec 11 1987 Dec 11 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1675 Australia (Visits of Australian Prime Ministers to London: Malcolm Fraser (February 1980 and July 1981) and Robert Hawke (June 1983 and April 1986); meetings with the Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 21 1986 Apr 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2213 Guyana (Visits to UK by Guyanese Presidents Forbes Burnham and Desmond Hoyte) 1980 Jan 11 1988 May 11 2016 Jul 21 4
PREM19/2915 Brazil (Proposed visit to UK by President of Brazil, General Joao Figueiredo; visit of the President-elect, Fernando Collor de Mello, February 1990) 1981 Nov 9 1990 May 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2086 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 18) 1988 Jan 9 1988 Jun 24 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1589 Oman (UK policy: relations with Oman) (Part 1) 1979 May 18 1985 Jun 24 2014 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
PREM19/2598 Civil Service (Election of officials in the Civil and Public Services Association (CPSA)) 1981 Nov 13 1986 Jul 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2083 Economic Policy (Correspondence from and meetings with Sir Walter Salomon, private banker) (Part 2) 1987 Feb 19 1987 Apr 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2737 Industrial Policy (Research and development: review of international research and development programmes) (Part 6) 1989 Jan 17 1989 Sep 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1855 National Health (Committee on Human Fertilisation and Embryology (chaired by Lady Warnock); medical ethics; human surrogacy; German conference on bioethics) (Part 1) 1982 Feb 10 1986 Apr 4 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2431 Prime Minister's Gifts (Copies of invoices received for payment for gifts purchased for presentation to overseas visitors: general correspondence on gifts) (Part 3) 1984 Sep 3 1986 Sep 5 2016 Jul 21 3

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