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
PREM19/1821 Japan (Visits to the UK by Japanese Foreign Ministers, Masoyashi Ito and Shintaro Abe) 1981 Aug 24 1986 Oct 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2699 Government Buildings (Opening of the Cabinet War Rooms to the public, April 1984) 1981 May 29 1989 Mar 21 2016 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
PREM19/1966 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 9) 1986 Mar 3 1986 May 30 2016 Feb 19 2
PREM19/1696 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 6) 1985 Nov 4 1986 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2462 Regional Policy (Inner Cities Initiative: report by Eric Sorensen; Phoenix initiative; development of Canary Wharf and extension of Docklands Light Railway) (Part 10) 1987 May 1 1987 Sep 22 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2319 Manpower (Special employment measures: reducing unemployment below two million; future of the Training Commission) (Part 19) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Oct 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1566 Malaysia (UK/Malaysia relations: visit to UK by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, March 1983; meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 28 1985 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30 4
PREM19/2794 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 18) 1988 Sep 30 1989 Sep 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2164 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 34) 1986 Dec 1 1987 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2893 Venezuela (Possible visit of the Venezuelan President-elect, Jaime Lusinchi: internal situation) 1983 Nov 28 1989 Sep 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1904 Prime Minister (Meetings with the National Pensioners Conventions, February 1982 to March 1986) (part 1) 1979 May 30 1986 Mar 27 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2430 Prime Minister (Visits to government departments) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 15 1982 Nov 25 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/1318 National health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS); NHS Management Inquiry Report (Griffiths Report); priorities and policies for health and personal social services) (Part 3) 1984 Mar 10 1984 Aug 24 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1665 Aerospace (Future and structure of British Airways: settlement of litigation concerning the collapse of Laker Airways; airports policy; USA/UK future aviation strategy; economic regulation of airports; competition regime for UK/US aviation) (Part 4) 1985 May 3 1986 Jan 24 2014 Dec 30

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