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 ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1828 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; aftermath of shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau, 17 April 1984; severance of diplomatic relations) (Part 3B) 1984 May 31 1986 Apr 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2712 Government Machinery (The Central Office of Information (COI) and the future of the Information Services: Government advertising expenditure; repayment for services provided by the COI) 1979 May 18 1989 May 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1354 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Ralph Howell MP, seeking support for Employment Research Centre (ERC) of University of Buckingham, July 1983) 1983 Jul 5 1984 May 3 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1355 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Paul Volcker, Chairman of US Federal Reserve) 1981 Jan 27 1984 Dec 13 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1704 Economic policy (Policy towards privatisation: disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions; flotation of Royal Ordnance PLC; Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) picketing at DHSS Huyton Local Office over privatised cleaning contract) (Part 14) 1986 Jul 9 1986 Oct 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3206 USA (Prime Minister's meeting with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, 5 February 1990) 1990 Jan 25 1990 Mar 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2375 Overseas Aid (Sale of BAe 748 to Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT)) 1984 Dec 4 1987 Nov 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2903 Agriculture (Nutrition labelling of food: additives in food; environmental labelling of consumer products) 1987 Jul 23 1990 Oct 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2214 Histories (Histories of Special Operations Executive (SOE)) 1980 May 1 1988 Nov 24 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1232 European policy (British official use of terms, 'European Parliament' and 'European Assembly'; representation from Lord Bethell, Member of the European Parliament (MEP)) 1983 Jul 21 1984 Aug 29 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1797 Hong Kong (Prime Minister's meetings with Sir Yue-Kong Pao, shipping magnate) (Part 2) 1982 Feb 8 1986 Oct 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2654 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; London Conference on Saving the Ozone Layer, March 1989) (Part 8) 1989 Mar 1 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1988 Trade (Inward investment; review of overseas promotion) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 17 1986 Jul 17 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2520 Social Services (Review of social security benefits: Income Support; Pensions Ombudsdman) (Part 6) 1986 Oct 2 1990 Feb 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/294 Memoirs (BBC programmes based on Lord Mountbatten’s memoirs) 1980 Jan 16 1980 Nov 11 2015 Jun 23

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