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
PREM19/2502 Security (Security and protection of the Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 3 1987 Jan 26 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1373 Security (Recommendation by Security Commission in report on Geoffrey Prime case for pilot polygraph scheme in Security Service and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)) 1984 Feb 10 1984 Aug 8 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2260 Information and Publicity (Media coverage of Wiltshire arrests: Home Office guidance circular to journal editors on terrorist threat to VIPs) 1987 Sep 15 1987 Sep 16 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2981 European Policy (European Council meeting, Dublin, June 1990: briefing papers) 1990 Jun 19 1990 Jun 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2162 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS)) (Part 2) 1982 Mar 1 1987 Jan 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1633 Security (Soviet funding of National Union of Mineworkers (NUM): information from Sir Bernard Braine MP) 1984 Oct 10 1985 Mar 6 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2868 Soviet Union (Visit to the UK by President Mikhail Gorbachev, April 1984: part 3. Orderable at item level.) (Part 3) 1989 Jan 3 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1289 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 18) 1984 Nov 1 1984 Dec 18 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2168 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 38) 1987 Dec 2 1988 May 27 2016 Jul 21
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

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