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
PREM19/884 Prime Minister (Meetings with Geoffrey Robinson MP to discuss redundancies in Jaguar factories in Coventry) 1981 Jun 1 1982 Jan 21 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 28
PREM19/758 Foreign policy (Third United Nations Law of the Sea Conference; extension of the UK territorial sea) 1980 May 6 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 Secret 322
PREM19/423 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 8) 1981 Jan 2 1981 Jun 10 2011 Dec 30 Secret 256
PREM19/2021 Bahrain (UK/Bahraini relations) 1979 Jun 26 1987 Jul 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2688 Foreign Policy (Consular Fees (Amendment) Bill: increases in consular fees) 1979 Jul 10 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1819 Italy (MT’s visits to Italy; Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 2 1986 May 27 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 104
PREM19/1476 Environmental Affairs (Prime Minister's lunch with conservationists) 1985 Oct 21 1985 Nov 26 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 46
PREM19/1021 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 20) 1983 Feb 2 1983 Jun 17 Closed until 2019-01-01 Unknown
PREM19/1141 Sport (Invitation to Princess Anne to become President of British Olympic Association) 1983 Mar 4 1983 Apr 12 Closed until 2024-01-01 Unknown
PREM19/678 Civil service (BBC Radio 4 series on the Civil Service; participation by Ministers and senior officials) 1981 Feb 9 1982 Jul 5 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 32
PREM19/337 Prime Minister (Meeting with delegation from Kingston upon Hull on 24 April 1980 to discuss problems of the fishing industry) 1980 Apr 1 1980 May 1 2010 Dec 30 Restricted 75
PREM19/2401 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's international commitments) (Part 1) 1983 Dec 16 1988 May 5 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1853 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): Value for Money seminars; NHS Management Board) (Part 5) 1985 Apr 1 1986 May 30 2016 Feb 19
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

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