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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
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
PREM19/279 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland; Northern Ireland Conference, Belfast) (Part 5) 1979 Dec 5 1980 Mar 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 198
PREM19/2535 Soviet Union (Domestic scene: Soviet leadership succession (Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko, Gorbachev)) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 20 1987 Aug 5 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1740 Energy (Activities and role of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (AEA)) 1984 Mar 2 1986 Mar 11 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1397 Trade (Britain’s international trade policies; problems with Spain and Japan; rolling back protectionism; export promotion) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 4 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/708 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 12) 1981 Dec 17 1982 Jan 4 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 140
PREM19/373 Spain (EEC fishing licences for Spanish fishermen) 1980 Jan 28 1980 Feb 8 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 18
PREM19/2400 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with a delegation of Muslim religious leaders, 28 April 1988) 1988 Jan 28 1988 Jun 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1852 Ministers (Market and Opinion Research International Ltd (MORI): requests for Geoffrey Finsberg MP and Lord Young to participate in surveys on a range of issues affecting British industry) 1980 Jun 2 1986 Jul 16 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/199 Education (Future of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA)) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 20 1980 Nov 28 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 36
PREM19/2275 Ireland (Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland) (Part 4) 1985 Nov 6 1988 Jan 27 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1658 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, February 1985) (Part 4A) 1984 Dec 10 1985 Feb 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1317 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 2) 1983 Apr 7 1984 Feb 20 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/964 Civil service (Manpower reductions in the Cabinet Office) 1979 Jul 20 1983 May 9 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 59
PREM19/2302 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 34) 1987 Dec 3 1988 Mar 31 2016 Jul 21

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