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 ascending Link to selections
PREM19/1702 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 35) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Sep 30 2014 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
PREM19/1447 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 6) 1982 Dec 16 1985 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1111 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Dr David Clark MP about factory closures and unemployment in his South Shields constituency) 1981 Jul 14 1983 Jan 24 2013 Aug 1
PREM19/2964 Environmental Affairs (North Sea Conference) 1984 Oct 31 1990 Jul 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2132 Elections (Election procedure) (Part 2) 1987 Jan 5 1987 May 12 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/2803 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Basil Hersov, President of the South African Institute of Directors, February 1989) 1988 Jun 8 1989 Mar 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1367 Royal family (Relations between the media and members of the Royal Family; possible legal measures to prevent harassment) 1984 Jan 3 1984 Jan 18 Retained Retained
PREM19/2153 European Policy (European Council meeting, London, November 1981: meetings with Social Partners - European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and European Community Employers' Association (UNICE)) 1981 Oct 29 1987 Mar 18 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2782 National Health (Outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Staffordshire: Stafford Hospital Inquiry) 1988 May 20 1989 Jul 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1922 Regional Policy (Review of regional policy: new structure for regional industrial incentives; territorial expenditure; the North/South issue) (Part 7) 1984 Oct 2 1986 Dec 22 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2462 Regional Policy (Inner Cities Initiative: report by Eric Sorensen; Phoenix initiative; development of Canary Wharf and extension of Docklands Light Railway) (Part 10) 1987 May 1 1987 Sep 22 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1978 Sport (Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, July 1986) 1985 Aug 1 1986 Dec 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1288 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 17B) 1984 Oct 6 1984 Oct 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/912 Security ('Doomsday Minus Four' by Larry Clark) 1982 Jan 14 1982 Jan 15 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown

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