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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2593 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy) (Part 7) 1988 Oct 3 1989 Apr 27 2016 Dec 30
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
PREM19/78 Iran (Jewish community - correspondence with President Carter) 1979 May 15 1979 May 24 2009 Dec 30 Secret 23
PREM19/1427 Civil Service (Long term management and manpower policy) (Part 17) 1984 Dec 4 1985 Aug 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 303
PREM19/1091 National health (Management inquiry into National Health Service (NHS) manpower and resources (led by Roy Griffiths of J Sainsbury plc); representations from Ralph Howell MP) 1980 Jul 22 1983 Jul 27 2013 Aug 1 Secret 208
PREM19/754 European policy (European Council meeting, Venice, June 1980: briefing papers) 1980 Jun 3 1980 Jun 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 754
PREM19/419 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 14) 1981 Feb 17 1981 Sep 16 2011 Dec 30 Secret 173
PREM19/2339 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review) (Part 13) 1988 Jun 1 1988 Jun 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3114 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's speech at Conrad Black dinner, 21 June 1988, and meeting with Conrad Black and the Board of Hollinger, 6 September 1989) 1988 Jun 21 1990 Apr 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2469 Royal Family (Procedures for members of the Royal Family taking up jobs and other commercial appointments) 1988 Dec 7 1988 Dec 7 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
PREM19/1611 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with James Hill MP to discuss Southampton's Docks and Freeport) 1985 May 16 1985 Oct 14 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
PREM19/1009 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Williamsburg) (Part 13) 1983 May 27 1983 Oct 2 2013 Aug 1 Secret 221
PREM19/674 Civil service (Pay and pensions) (Part 10) 1982 Feb 8 1982 Feb 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 274

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