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
PREM19/2564 United Nations (World Conference of the United Nations Decade for Women, Copenhagen, July 1980: ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)) 1980 Jul 8 1987 Jul 28 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/2165 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 35) 1987 Feb 2 1987 Apr 21 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1498 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) (Part 1) 1985 Apr 5 1985 Jul 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1905 Prime Minister (Meetings with David Clark MP and Don Dixon MP about closure of Plessey factory in South Shields) 1984 Mar 26 1986 Jun 9 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1519 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste) (Part 19 annex) 1985 Aug 1 1985 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1885 Parliament (Boundary Commission reviews of Parliamentary constituencies in UK)(Part 1) 1981 Feb 19 1986 Feb 20 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/2162 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS)) (Part 2) 1982 Mar 1 1987 Jan 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2988 European Policy (Setting up of European Bank of Reconstruction and Development) 1989 Dec 14 1990 Sep 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2290 Kenya (Prime Minister's visit to Kenya, January 1988) (Part 1) 1987 Nov 16 1988 Apr 20 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1745 European Policy (European Council meeting, The Hague, June 1986) (Part 25) 1985 Apr 23 1986 Jul 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1247 Gibraltar (Policy) (Part 4) 1983 Jul 1 1984 Mar 20 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2738 Industrial Policy (Research and development, including European Community framework programme for research and development) (Part 7) 1989 Sep 1 1989 Dec 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2110 Economic Policy (Toronto Economic Summit: Prime Minister's Personal Representative for Economic Summits; 'Sherpa' papers) (Part 3) 1988 Jun 1 1988 Jul 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2478 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget; national priorities for science and technology) (Part 6) 1987 Sep 7 1987 Dec 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1341 Peru (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Dr Manuel Ulloa Elias, January 1981; possible visit by Prime Minister Dr Schwalb) 1980 Dec 1 1984 Jun 18 2014 Jan 3

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