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 descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2084 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 16) 1986 Oct 1 1987 Jun 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2926 Civil Service (Speeches by the Heads of the Civil Service, Sir Robert Armstrong and Sir Robin Butler) 1985 Jun 14 1990 Oct 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2226 Home Affairs (Review of entry clearance policy; implementation of the Keith Report on the enforcement powers of the Revenue Departments; Crown Prosecution Service) (Part 3) 1986 Mar 14 1988 Jul 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1806 Industrial policy (Short Borthers Ltd) 1980 Nov 6 1986 Aug 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2672 European Policy (Meeting of European Community leaders to discuss the situation in Eastern Europe, Paris, 18 November 1989) 1989 Nov 13 1989 Nov 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2020 Arts and Amenities (Policy towards the arts; private sponsorship of the arts) (Part 2) 1983 Dec 2 1987 Mar 13 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2551 Trade (Multilateral trade negotiations) 1979 May 17 1987 Nov 19 2016-07-2016
PREM19/1681 Canada (Prime Minister's Visit to Canada, July 1986: Vancouver Transportation Exposition 1986 (Expo 86)) 1981 Jul 8 1986 Sep 12 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2399 Prime Minister (Proposal for a Margaret Thatcher Chair of International Relations) 1987 Oct 12 1988 Jun 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3121 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Lady Porter, 13 September 1990: proposal for a Minister for London) 1990 Sep 13 1990 Nov 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2348 National Health (Reuse of redundant hospital sites in the Green Belt) 1986 Oct 19 1987 Apr 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1551 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 10) 1985 Oct 1 1985 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2033 Cameroon (UK/Cameroon relations) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 1 1988 Mar 25 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2865 South Africa (Visits to the UK by the South African Foreign Minister, Pik Botha) 1979 Oct 16 1989 Mar 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2192 Government Machinery (Ministerial responsibility for the arts and libraries) 1979 May 14 1987 Jul 16 2016 Feb 19

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