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
PREM19/2708 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; value for money seminars; Next Steps initiative) (Part 31) 1989 Jul 3 1989 Oct 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1384 Security (South African diplomat accused of spying for Russia) 1983 Jan 19 1984 Jan 23 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1733 Egypt (Anglo-Egyptian relations: defence sales to Egypt; internal situation) (Part 1) 1980 Nov 4 1986 Jun 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1862 National Health (Disposal of site of St George's Hospital, Hyde Park Corner: negotiations with Grosvenor Estate for sale of Crown portion) 1982 Jan 21 1986 Apr 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2412 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Chilver, 13 April 1988) 1988 Jan 20 1988 Apr 14 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1256 Government machinery (Location of proposed Hazardous Waste Inspectorate) 1982 Oct 1 1984 Oct 26 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1602 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Field Marshal Sir Edwin Bramall, retiring Chief of the Defence Staff) 1982 Sep 7 1985 Nov 2 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2115 Education (Education seminar held by the Prime Minister at Downing Street, 2 October 1985) 1985 Aug 30 1986 Jan 1 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2962 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power; fast reactor programme) (Part 13) 1988 Jun 1 1990 Aug 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2250 Industrial Policy (Information Technology Advisory Panel (ITAP) report 'Making a Business of Information'; dissolution of ITAP) (Part 4) 1983 Sep 1 1987 Jan 30 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2581 Sri Lanka (Visits to UK by Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa, July 1987; possible visit by President Jayawardene) (Part 2) 1987 Apr 7 1988 Sep 6 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1826 Legal Procedure (Possible reform of the law on rape) 1981 Jan 6 1986 Nov 11 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2704 Government Machinery (Monopolies and mergers) (Part 4) 1989 Mar 8 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1352 Prime Minister (Allegations by Paddy Ashdown MP about Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operations against British companies in the computer technology field allegedly embargo-breaking) 1984 May 9 1984 Dec 14 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3199 Turkey (Prime Minister's visit to Turkey to attend the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign, April 1990) (Part 2) 1990 Feb 28 1990 Aug 13 2016 Dec 30

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