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
PREM19/2538 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 6) 1986 Jun 2 1987 Jan 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1770 Government Machinery (Crown Agents Tribunal of Enquiry: future of the Crown Agents) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 11 1986 Jan 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2660 Environmental Affairs (Parliament Square improvements) (Part 12) 1987 Jul 15 1989 May 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2122 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: bogus degrees; financial delegation; charges for school activities; grant maintained schools; national curriculum; open enrolment; education in Scotland and Wales) (Part 15) 1987 Aug 3 1987 Oct 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3027 Home Affairs (Football hooliganism; Football Spectators Bill; Taylor Report on the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster) (Part 8) 1989 Feb 2 1990 Jan 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2278 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 24) 1988 Apr 1 1988 Aug 31 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1690 Defence (Public opinion and public debate on nuclear weapons issues) 1982 Oct 18 1986 May 12 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1347 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with US Senator Orrin Hatch, November 1984) 1984 Nov 12 1984 Nov 19 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2449 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris for ratification of the Channel Tunnel Treaty, July 1987: administrative arrangements) 1987 Jul 7 1987 Jul 30 2016 Nov 7 1
PREM19/1959 Social Services (Reform of social security: pensions, housing benefit and supplementary benefit; child support) (Part 4) 1985 Dec 3 1986 Sep 16 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2894 Vietnam (Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong; resettlement in the UK) (Part 4) 1981 Mar 3 1989 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2069 Defence (Nuclear release procedures) (Part 4) 1983 Mar 1 1987 Oct 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1605 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Gordon Brown MP to discuss factory closures in his Dunfermline East constituency and general regional policy) 1983 Sep 11 1985 Jan 11 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2358 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 13) 1987 Oct 5 1988 Mar 31 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/2717 Home Affairs (Data protection: computer hacking) (Part 2) 1987 Oct 12 1989 May 17 2016 Dec 30

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