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 ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1794 Home Affairs (Animal welfare matters) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 6 1986 Sep 25 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2647 Education (The Open College) 1987 Aug 21 1989 Mar 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1985 Trade (Commodity policy; International Tin Agreement and International Tin Council; implications of difficulties in tin market for Cornish tin mines; Select Committee report on the tin crisis; renegotiation of International Natural Rubber Agreement) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 5 1986 May 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2485 Security (Correspondence between Tam Dalyell MP and Prime Minister concerning the programme 'Cabinet') 1988 Aug 28 1988 Oct 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2332 National Health (Mortgages for NHS staff in London) 1987 Dec 11 1987 Dec 11 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3071 Manpower (Special employment measures: training policy; pilot schemes of training credits for young people) (Part 24) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2336 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; Community Care Review) (Part 10) 1988 Feb 3 1988 Feb 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1323 Nationalised industries (Pay of Chairmen and Board members) (Part 2) 1981 Dec 4 1984 May 29 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1670 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 5) 1986 Mar 3 1986 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/512 Jordan (Visits to UK by King Hussein: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 1 1981 Nov 18 2011 Dec 30 1
PREM19/1994 Uganda (Internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Apr 17 1986 Jan 31 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2827 Regional Policy (Inner city policy and problems: Urban Development Corporations; 'Action for Cities'; regeneration of London Docklands) (Part 15) 1988 Sep 6 1989 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2178 Foreign Policy (Strategy on foreign policy and defence issues) (Part 3) 1985 Apr 1 1987 Jul 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2992 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 10) 1989 Dec 1 1990 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1762 France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand) (Part 5) 1985 Oct 16 1986 Nov 28 2014 Dec 30

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