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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2442 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Kenya and Nigeria, January 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Oct 28 1988 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2975 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 45) 1990 Mar 2 1990 Apr 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/280 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland; Northern Ireland Conference, Belfast) (Part 6) 1980 Mar 12 1980 May 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 139
PREM19/1934 Science and Technology (Women into Science and Engineering Year, 1984; Prime Minister's meetings with Lady Platt, Chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission) 1983 Dec 12 1986 Jul 7 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2146 European Policy (Presidency of European Commission (reappointment of Jacques Delors): UK Commissioners (appointment and meetings with Prime Minister); David Williamson to succeed Emile Noel as Secretary-General; UK representation in official posts in Commission) (Part 3) 1984 Jan 2 1988 Jul 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1628 Security (Contingency arrangements for dealing with terrorist incidents) 1979 Jun 8 1985 Nov 21 2014 Dec 30 Secret 25
PREM19/1288 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 17B) 1984 Oct 6 1984 Oct 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/540 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 10 1981 Jul 20 2011 Dec 30 Secret 199
PREM19/200 Education (Teachers’ pay) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1980 Jun 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 154
PREM19/2800 Police (Police pay) (Part 2) 1985 Mar 1 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1989 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail pay; industrial action by NUR and ASLEF; possible line closures; British Rail finances) (Part 8) 1984 Jan 20 1986 Jul 31 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1543 Iraq (Visits to UK by Iraqi Minister of Trade, Hassan Ali: meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Apr 24 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 48
PREM19/870 Poland (Intelligence) 1982 Jan 8 1982 Feb 22 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/121 Social services (Benefits) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 19 1979 Dec 20 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 158
PREM19/797 Immigration (White Paper on proposals for changing the immigration rules; review of immigration appeals system) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 19 1982 Aug 26 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 167

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