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
PREM19/2517 Security (Procedure for dealing with suspicious letters and parcels received at 10 Downing Street: letter bombs) (Part 1) 1968 Sep 25 1986 Jan 20 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1731 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 7) 1986 Apr 15 1986 Oct 2 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1388 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing) (Part 2) 1984 Feb 6 1984 Feb 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2293 Legal Procedure (Increase in number of Lords Justices of Appeal) 1987 Oct 21 1987 Oct 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3003 Germany (Internal situation in the Federal Republic of Germany) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 13 1990 Mar 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2265 Iraq (Internal situation: Iran-Iraq War) (Part 5) 1984 Sep 1 1987 Jul 19 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1308 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 23) 1984 Oct 2 1984 Nov 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2996 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Switzerland, September 1990) (Folder 2) 1990 Aug 20 1990 Sep 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2186 Government Buildings (The Albert Memorial) 1987 Sep 28 1987 Dec 2 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2867 Soviet Union (Visits to the UK by Soviet Deputy Prime Ministers: Leonid Konstandov, Vladimir Kamentsev and Aleksandra Biryukova) 1983 Sep 23 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2048 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, October 1987) (Part 13) 1987 Nov 3 1987 Dec 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1228 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 24) 1984 Apr 2 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2554 Trade (Coordination of Ministerial trade promotion visits overseas; reports on major civil overseas sales prospects) 1981 Apr 15 1988 Oct 6 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2029 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; subscription television; independent television producers) (Part 4) 1987 Mar 17 1987 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2698 Germany (Visits to the UK by Governing Mayors of Berlin: Dietrich Stobb, Richard von Weizsacker, Eberhard Diepgen and Walter Momper) 1979 Mar 2 1989 May 4 2016 Dec 30

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