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
PREM19/1786 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: prison manpower; Scrutiny of the Prison Service) (Part 2) 1983 Mar 9 1986 May 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1443 Defence (Arms control) (Part 6B) 1985 Jan 4 1985 Feb 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2445 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Berlin, September 1987: administrative arrangements) 1987 Aug 6 1987 Sep 28 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/1937 Science and Technology (Collyear Report on new materials technology) 1984 Aug 8 1986 Jan 9 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2492 Security (Terrorist activity and extremism in Great Britain, including threat to UK nuclear facilities and nuclear materials) (Part 4) 1987 Oct 19 1988 Sep 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1363 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's visit to Liverpool, October 1984; possible visit to British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL) at Risley; future of Liverpool Garden Festival site) 1981 Sep 24 1984 Oct 16 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2354 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: privatisation of the electricity supply industry; draft White Paper) (Part 14) 1987 Nov 3 1988 Feb 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3184 Soviet Union (Visits to the UK by Eduard Shevardnadze, Soviet Foreign Minister, July 1986 and December 1989) 1986 Jun 2 1990 Jan 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2135 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power; Layfield report on new Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR), Sizewell 'B'; doctrine of collective responsibility aspect of Energy Secretary's decision to accept Layfield recommendation; study by Advisory Council on Applied Research and Development (ACARD) on UK future nuclear reactor programme) (Part 11) 1987 Feb 4 1987 Nov 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1624 Security (Allegations made to Kenneth Warren MP by John Kane about security standards at Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) establishments) 1979 Jun 14 1984 Mar 26 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2249 Industrial Policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 13) 1987 Feb 4 1987 Sep 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2969 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Environment White Paper) (Part 17) 1990 Jul 2 1990 Aug 30 2016 Dec 30
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
PREM19/2795 Parliament (Mr Speaker's official entertainment) 1989 Mar 1 1989 Mar 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2152 European Policy (Community-wide digital cellular radio system: Prime Minister's initiative at European Council meeting in London, December 1986) 1986 Nov 12 1987 Sep 7 2016 Jul 21

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