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
PREM19/1891 Prime Minister (Meeting with Dr An Wang, Chairman of Wang Laboratories, 7 October 1983) 1983 Aug 10 1986 Jan 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2546 Soviet Union (Visits to UK by President Gorbachev) (Part 2) 1988 Nov 10 1988 Dec 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1750 European Policy (European Community Budget: report on UK applications for European Regional Development Grants) (Part 33) 1984 Oct 1 1986 Sep 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1407 Zaire (Visits to UK by President Mobutu, December 1981 and September 1984: meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Nov 19 1984 Dec 4 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2347 National Health (Primary health care: White Paper 'Promoting Better Health') (Part 2) 1987 Nov 2 1988 Jul 20 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3043 Industrial Policy (Wages Councils: future) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 1 1990 Jan 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2324 Middle East (Weapons development) 1987 Aug 6 1987 Aug 26 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1327 Nationalised industries (Nationalised industry policy; financial control; overseas role; Nationalised Industries Bill) (Part 8) 1983 Jan 5 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2240 Housing (Prime Minister's meeting with Professor Alice Coleman to discuss housing design: subsequent action) 1987 Dec 18 1988 Mar 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2207 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 27) 1988 Jan 21 1988 Aug 5 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2903 Agriculture (Nutrition labelling of food: additives in food; environmental labelling of consumer products) 1987 Jul 23 1990 Oct 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2078 Drugs (Drugs misuse: Visit to South America by David Mellor, Minister of State at the Home Office; cooperation between Police and Customs) (Part 3) 1985 Oct 2 1987 May 15 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1245b Germany (Visits to UK by Chancellor Helmut Kohl; Anglo-German Summit) (Part 8B) 1983 Oct 11 1984 Aug 29 2014 Jan 3 2
PREM19/2710 Government Machinery (Departmental responsibility for the National Unemployment Benefit System (NUBS) computer system) 1983 Oct 31 1989 Jul 20 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2063 Defence (Future UK defence policy: merchant shippling and defence needs; NATO maritime rules of engagement) (Part 2) 1983 Nov 1 1987 Jul 27 2016 Nov 7

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