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
PREM19/1822 Jordan (UK/Jordanian relations: West Bank study paper by Crown Prince Hassan) (Part 1) 1979 Dec 28 1986 Feb 25 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2700 Government Buildings (Purchase of government accommodation in the Whitehall area) 1983 Jul 23 1989 Sep 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2043 Civil Service (Pay and pensions: geographical pay variations in the non-industrial Civil Service; non-industrial pay negotiations) (Part 16) 1986 Jun 2 1987 Mar 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1348 Prime Minister (Study on future of welfare state by Lord Vaizey and others; meeting with Prime Minister) 1983 Nov 28 1984 Feb 2 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1697 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 7) 1986 Aug 1 1986 Dec 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3190 Trade (Freeports in the UK) 1983 Feb 25 1990 May 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2366 New Zealand (Internal situation: UK/New Zealand relations; Robert Muldoon succeeded as Prime Minister by David Lange; Labour government's ban on visits by nuclear-armed warships; sinking of Greenpeace vessel by French agents in Auckland harbour) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 20 1988 May 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2206 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 26) 1988 Jan 14 1988 Feb 26 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2898 Aerospace (Radio equipment for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA): NATO air defence radar procurement) 1979 Nov 21 1990 Jul 20 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1790 Home Affairs (Interim payments for civil legal aid work: criminal legal aid remuneration) (Part 1) 1982 Dec 8 1986 Jul 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2643 Education (General policy on education) (Part 20) 1988 Dec 1 1989 Mar 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1981 Sudan (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Sayed Sadiq al Mahdi: lunch with Prime Minister, 15 October 1986) 1985 Jul 22 1986 Dec 3 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2479 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget; national priorities for science and technology) (Part 7) 1988 Jan 12 1988 Jan 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/287 Legal Procedure (Proposed amendment to Act of Settlement 1701) 1980 Jul 8 1980 Oct 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3064 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 17) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Mar 30 2016 Dec 30

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