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 ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2124 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: Education Reform Bill; education in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland; financial delegation; grant maintained schools; national curriculum; future of Paisley Grammar School; charges forschool activities; opting out of Local Education Authority (LEA) control; religious education) (Part 17) 1988 Jan 7 1988 Mar 30 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2964 Environmental Affairs (North Sea Conference) 1984 Oct 31 1990 Jul 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2252 Industrial Policy (Research and development) (Part 3) 1986 Oct 13 1987 Mar 27 2016 Jul 21
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
PREM19/2586 Arts and Amenities (Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Sieff to discuss the possible acquisition of the Royal Dental Hospital site by the National Portrait Gallery: future of the National Portrait Gallery) 1986 Aug 26 1989 Apr 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1828 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; aftermath of shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau, 17 April 1984; severance of diplomatic relations) (Part 3B) 1984 May 31 1986 Apr 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2712 Government Machinery (The Central Office of Information (COI) and the future of the Information Services: Government advertising expenditure; repayment for services provided by the COI) 1979 May 18 1989 May 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1354 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Ralph Howell MP, seeking support for Employment Research Centre (ERC) of University of Buckingham, July 1983) 1983 Jul 5 1984 May 3 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1703 Economic policy (Policy towards privatisation: disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions; flotation of Royal Ordnance PLC; Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) picketing at DHSS Huyton Local Office over privatised cleaning contract) (Part 13) 1985 Dec 2 1986 Jun 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3204 USA (Prime Minister's correspondence and meetings with Congressman Jack Kemp) 1979 Nov 19 1990 Jul 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2374 Overseas Aid (Overseas aid policy: Aid and Trade Provision (ATP) proposals and progress) (Part 5) 1985 Jul 11 1987 Jul 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2902 Agriculture (Discussion paper by Consultative Board of the Joint Consultative Organisation for Research and Development in Agriculture and Food: correspondence with Lord Rothschild; Priorities Board for Research and Development in Agriculture and Food) (Part 1) 1983 Jun 20 1990 May 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2213 Guyana (Visits to UK by Guyanese Presidents Forbes Burnham and Desmond Hoyte) 1980 Jan 11 1988 May 11 2016 Jul 21 4
PREM19/1231 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 27) 1984 Aug 1 1984 Oct 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2073 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 12) 1986 Mar 14 1987 May 8 2016 Jul 21

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