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
PREM19/2644 Education (General policy on education) (Part 21) 1989 Apr 3 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1982 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy; Prime Minister's 'Better Made in Britain' seminar, 25 February 1986) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 8 1986 Jan 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2480 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's reception for industrial designers, January 1987) 1986 Jan 7 1987 Feb 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1399 Transport (Inquiry into Archway Road Scheme (North London); withdrawal of nominated inspector Sir Michael Giddings following harassment of him and his family) 1984 Feb 27 1984 Nov 19 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3065 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 18) 1990 Apr 2 1990 Apr 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1748 European Policy (European Community Budget: HM Government options towards illegal Community budget for 1986) (Part 31) 1985 Dec 4 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2333 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS)) (Part 7) 1986 Oct 1 1987 Jan 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1271 Hungary (UK/Hungarian relations) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 24 1984 Jan 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1620 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing; unionisation) (Part 3) 1984 Mar 2 1985 Apr 26 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2816 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris to attend the Economic Summit, July 1989: administrative arrangements) 1988 May 31 1989 Aug 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2172 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 7) 1986 Nov 3 1987 Nov 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2958 Education (Student loans) (Part 3) 1990 Jan 10 1990 Apr 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2577 Prime Minister (Personal correspondence with Princess Margaret) 1980 Jan 9 1980 Feb 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1914 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Federal Republic of Germany, September 1986: Anglo-German Summit, Bonn, and visit to British Forces Germany; administrative arrangements) 1986 Jan 20 1986 Sep 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2438 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Brussels, February 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Dec 6 1988 Feb 23 2016 Jul 21

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