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
PREM19/1803 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland/Rover Group) (Part 12) 1986 May 1 1986 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2565 USA (Internal political situation: 1988 Presidential election campaign) (Part 2) 1985 Jan 3 1988 Oct 31 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/2699 Government Buildings (Opening of the Cabinet War Rooms to the public, April 1984) 1981 May 29 1989 Mar 21 2016 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
PREM19/3190 Trade (Freeports in the UK) 1983 Feb 25 1990 May 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1406 Yugoslavia (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Milka Planinc, November 1983: meeting with Prime Minister) 1982 Jun 30 1983 Nov 25 2014 Jan 3
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
PREM19/2022 Bermuda (UK/Bermuda relations; meetings with John Swan, Premier of Bermuda) (Part 1) 1982 May 21 1987 Jun 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1281 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 10) 1983 Mar 4 1984 Apr 28 2014 Jan 3
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
PREM19/1772 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; White Paper on deregulation) (Part 20) 1985 Dec 1 1986 May 30 2014 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
PREM19/2643 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

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