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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/684 Defence (Special project) 1980 May 9 1982 Nov 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1612 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Robert Kilroy-Silk MP about proposed redundancies in Knowsley area) 1984 Jan 24 1985 Feb 11 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 55
PREM19/334 Prime Minister (Meeting with Clifton C Garvin Jr, Chairman of Exxon, June 1980) 1979 Mar 6 1980 Aug 28 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 47
PREM19/2957 Education (General policy on education) (Part 26) 1990 Jun 1 1990 Nov 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2181 France (Anglo-French relations: French disruption of UK lamb trade; Anglo-French nuclear defence cooperation; Prime Minister Michel Rocard's environmental initiative) (Part 4) 1986 Nov 3 1988 Nov 28 2017 Jan 30
PREM19/2856 Social Services (Uprating of social security benefits) (Part 4) 1987 May 6 1989 Sep 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2036 China (UK/Chinese relations) (Part 4) 1986 Jun 2 1987 Jun 19 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1278 Industrial policy (Wages Councils; review of Fair Wages Resolution 1946) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 26 1982 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1559 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 25) 1985 Jan 1 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 425
PREM19/604 Vietnam (Vietnamese refugees; resettlement in the UK) (Part 3) 1979 Jul 17 1981 Feb 28 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 244
PREM19/2532 Soviet Union (Soviet economy: grain harvest) 1979 Dec 1 1987 Jun 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/255 Hong Kong (UK trade with China; power projects in Hong Kong involving UK companies) (Part 1) 1979 May 14 1980 Dec 31 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 142
PREM19/2024 Broadcasting (Legislation on broadcasting; Green Paper on radio policy; breakfast television) (Part 2) 1982 Oct 21 1988 Apr 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2690 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Australia, Bahrain, Oman, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Dubai, August 1988: policy. Note: With photograph) 1988 Aug 1 1989 May 17 2016 Dec 30
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

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