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 classification Pagessort descending Link to selections
PREM19/2284 Japan (Anglo-Japanese relations) (Part 6) 1987 Jan 2 1987 Apr 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1665 Aerospace (Future and structure of British Airways: settlement of litigation concerning the collapse of Laker Airways; airports policy; USA/UK future aviation strategy; economic regulation of airports; competition regime for UK/US aviation) (Part 4) 1985 May 3 1986 Jan 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2204 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 24) 1987 Jul 2 1987 Oct 30 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2899 Aerospace (Review of Scottish lowland airports policy) 1984 Jul 6 1990 Mar 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2074 Defence (Zircon satellite project) (Part 1) 1983 Apr 27 1987 Feb 27 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1314 Memorials (Yalta victims memorial) 1980 Jan 28 1984 Mar 12 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2584 Agricultural (Agricultural Wages Board) 1983 Mar 28 1989 Jan 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2055 Defence (Arms control) (Part 12) 1987 May 1 1987 Jun 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2722 Home Affairs (Football hooliganism; Football Spectators Bill) (Part 7) 1988 Jul 5 1989 Jan 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1842 Memoirs (James Callaghan's memoirs) 1986 Dec 9 1986 Dec 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1500 Foreign Policy (Briefing for officials for Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) 1985 Apr 4 1985 Apr 13 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1234 European policy (Elections to European Parliament) (Part 1) 1979 May 16 1984 Mar 19 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2424 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Sir Peter Emery MP, 22 January 1987) 1986 Jul 23 1987 Jan 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1904 Prime Minister (Meetings with the National Pensioners Conventions, February 1982 to March 1986) (part 1) 1979 May 30 1986 Mar 27 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2575 Zambia (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1987 Aug 30 2016 Dec 30

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