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
PREM19/2148 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 16) 1987 Feb 10 1987 Mar 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2783 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: industrial energy policy; privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 16) 1989 Jan 5 1989 Aug 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1940 Security (Letter to Prime Minister from Dr Anatoly Fedoseyev about the economy) 1986 Jan 22 1986 Feb 17 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1536 (UK/Indian relations: situation in Punjab; activities of Sikh extremists; proposed visit to UK by Rajiv Gandhi in June 1985) (Part 4) 1983 Mar 4 1985 May 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/789 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 5 1982 Sep 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 297
PREM19/453 Energy (Future of British National Oil Corporation (BNOC); Petroleum and Continental Shelf Bill; Clyde oil field development) (Part 4) 1980 Jul 4 1981 Dec 22 2011 Dec 30 Secret 214
PREM19/54 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 2) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Oct 25 2009 Dec 30 Secret 244
PREM19/2459 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, November 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jun 8 1988 Dec 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2645 Education (General policy on education) (Part 22) 1989 Jul 3 1989 Dec 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1798 Hong Kong (Nomenclature in Hong Kong passports: requests for British citizenship) 1982 Oct 4 1986 Jun 30 2014 Dec 30
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
PREM19/1456 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 12) 1985 Dec 5 1985 Apr 26 2014 Dec 30 Secret 390
PREM19/2372 Norway (Visits to UK by Norwegian Prime Ministers, Kare Willoch and Gro Harlem Bruntland) 1981 Nov 6 1987 Feb 24 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/310 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; pay negotiations; contingency planning) (Part 5) 1980 Feb 15 1980 Mar 12 2010 Dec 30 Secret 226

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