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
PREM19/1738 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power policy; proposed fast reactor plant at Dounreay; Sizewell Inquiry; fast reactor policy; structure of nuclear industry; international co-operation on fusion; safety in civil nuclear installations and nuclear electricity policy after Chernobyl) (Part 9) 1984 Dec 6 1986 May 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2305 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 6) 1987 Feb 3 1987 Jul 1 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3015 Government Machinery (The Inland Revenue) 1986 Jun 9 1990 Jul 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2273 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish Summits; Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 18) 1987 Nov 18 1987 Apr 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1656 USA (UK/USA relations) (Part 3) 1984 Feb 9 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1403 USA (Visit to UK by Donald Rumsfeld, President Reagan’s special Middle East envoy: meeting with Prime Minister) 1984 Jan 16 1984 Jan 20 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2198 Government Machinery (Annual reports on the Government Statistical Service; review of statistical services) (Part 2) 1984 Apr 16 1988 Nov 25 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2881 Trade (Trade in textiles and clothes: Multi-Fibre Agreement (MFA)) (Part 3) 1982 May 18 1989 Nov 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2064 Defence (Future UK defence policy; merchant shipping and defence needs; Defence White Paper) (Part 3) 1987 Nov 10 1988 Nov 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2570 USA (Visit to UK by Congressman James Wright, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, July 1988) 1988 Mar 4 1988 Jul 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1323 Nationalised industries (Pay of Chairmen and Board members) (Part 2) 1981 Dec 4 1984 May 29 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2050 Costa Rica (Visits to UK by President Luis Monge and his successor President Oscar Arias) 1983 Mar 30 1988 Oct 17 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2706 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; value for money seminars; Next Steps initiative) (Part 29) 1988 Dec 1 1989 Apr 20 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1833 Local Government (Correspondence from Sir John Sainsbury on planning controls: general planning enquiries) (Part 2) 1985 May 1 1986 May 2 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2419 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Robert Key MP, 28 April 1987) 1988 Apr 19 1988 Apr 27 2016 Jul 21

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