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
PREM19/2693 France (Franco-British Council conference, Avignon, November 1984, and subsequent correspondence) 1983 Jun 27 1989 May 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2034 Canada (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers, Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Brian Mulroney) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 2 1988 Mar 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1692 Defence (Procurement of Weapon Systems (HARM/ALARM air launched missiles): airborne early warning aircraft (British Aerospace Nimrod and Boeing E3A)) (Part 4) 1986 Jun 10 1986 Dec 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3181 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations: internal situation; Lithuanian declaration of independence) (Part 15) 1990 Feb 1 1990 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2361 Nationalised Industries (Steel Industry: British Steel Corporation (BSC) privatisation) (Part 14) 1985 Sep 3 1987 Sep 25 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2887 Transport (Consultative paper on the Government's response to the Blennerhassett Committee's recommendations on drinking and driving: White Paper on road safety) 1979 Jul 26 1989 Nov 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1302 Libya (Anglo-Libyan relations; aftermath of shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau, 17 April 1984; severance of diplomatic relations) (Part 3A) 1984 May 1 1984 May 25 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1785 Home Affairs (Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on the proposed take-over of House of Fraser by Lonrho) (Part 2) 1986 Jan 15 1986 Dec 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2637 Economic Policy (The coinage. Note: With coins) 1980 Nov 20 1989 Sep 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1968 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 11) 1986 Jul 1 1986 Jul 15 2016 Feb 19 3
PREM19/2464 Regional Policy (Inner Cities Initiative: action following report by Eric Sorensen; Ministerial and departmental responsibility for coordination and presentation of policy towards inner cities; Kenneth Clarke, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to assume coordination responsibility; designation of further Urban Development Corporations (UDCs); Canary Wharf development by Olympia & York) (Part 12) 1987 Dec 1 1988 Feb 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3046 Iraq (UK/Iraq relations) (Part 2) 1990 Apr 2 1990 Jul 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2321 Manpower (Strategy for industry and employment: White Paper 'Employment, the Challenge for the Nation') (Part 4) 1985 Mar 5 1988 May 4 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1395 Sri Lanka (Internal situation; UK/Sri Lankan relations; aid to Sri Lanka) (Part 1) 1979 May 21 1984 Oct 22 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1530 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 17) 1984 Sep 26 1985 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30

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