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
PREM19/2823 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Brussels for NATO Summit, December 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Nov 19 1989 Dec 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2013 Afghanistan (Internal situation) (Part 7) 1986 May 8 1988 Mar 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1550 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 9) 1985 Jul 1 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2485 Security (Correspondence between Tam Dalyell MP and Prime Minister concerning the programme 'Cabinet') 1988 Aug 28 1988 Oct 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1993 Transport (Policy on roads: White Papers; roads programme) (Part 2) 1981 Dec 16 1986 Mar 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2672 European Policy (Meeting of European Community leaders to discuss the situation in Eastern Europe, Paris, 18 November 1989) 1989 Nov 13 1989 Nov 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1812 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach) (Part 12) 1986 Mar 1 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1135 Security (Irish Republican Socialist Party) 1983 Oct 13 1983 Nov 7 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/2387 Poland (Internal situation; economic assistance ) (Part 9) 1982 Oct 21 1988 Jan 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2526 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 16) 1988 Jun 2 1988 Aug 26 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1733 Egypt (Anglo-Egyptian relations: defence sales to Egypt; internal situation) (Part 1) 1980 Nov 4 1986 Jun 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1390 Social services (Genetic Manipulation Advisory Group (GMAG)) 1980 Dec 31 1984 Jan 11 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2295 Legal Procedure (Legal powers: challenges to the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) and other departments; Judicial Review) (Part 1) 1985 Dec 4 1987 Oct 19 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3007 Germany (Visits by Chancellor Helmut Kohl to the UK) (Part 10) 1986 Nov 20 1990 Mar 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2267 Iraq (Internal situation: Iran-Iraq War) (Part 7) 1987 Aug 11 1987 Aug 31 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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