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 descending Link to selections
PREM19/3176 Soviet Union (Prime Minister's visit to the Soviet Union, June 1990: policy) (Part 4) 1990 Jun 1 1990 Jul 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2488 Security (Correspondence with Lieutenant Colonel Robert Butler) 1983 Apr 15 1988 Mar 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1702 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 35) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1359 Prime Minister (Lord Longford's article for ‘The Universe’, drawing on interview with Prime Minister) 1982 Sep 29 1983 Feb 25 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2246 Industrial Policy (Ports: National Dock Labour Scheme; Ports of London and Liverpool; Ports Bill) (Part 3) 1985 Feb 18 1987 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21
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
PREM19/1620 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing; unionisation) (Part 3) 1984 Mar 2 1985 Apr 26 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1280 Industrial policy (Ports: review of policy, industrial action; uture of Port of London Authority (PLA)) (Part 2) 1982 May 11 1984 Dec 10 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2767 Local Government (Correspondence with Councillor Paul Beresford, Leader of Wandsworth Council) 1989 Feb 22 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2147 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 15) 1986 Dec 2 1987 Feb 7 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
PREM19/1535 India (Visits to UK by L K Jha, member of the Brandt Commission and adviser to Indira Gandhi: meetings with Prime Minister) 1983 Jun 4 1985 Mar 21 2015 Jul 16
PREM19/2458 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Turkey, April 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jan 5 1988 May 12 2016 Dec 30

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