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 ascending Link to selections
PREM19/3021 Home Affairs (Civil disorder) (Part 4) 1988 Jun 21 1990 Dec 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2176 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Australia, Bahrain, Oman, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Dubai, August 1988) (Part 1) 1988 May 12 1988 Jul 31 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/3177 Soviet Union (Policy towards the Soviet Union: call on Prime Minister by Robert Conquest; Soviet and East European studies) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 13 1990 Jun 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2196 Government Machinery (Propriety of Ministers arranging briefing for Conservative backbenchers) 1979 Dec 5 1988 Nov 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2828 Regional Policy (Inner city policy and problems: Urban Development Corporations; regeneration of London Docklands) (Part 16) 1989 Feb 7 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2015 Angola (Internal situation: UK/Angola relations) (Part 2) 1984 Apr 3 1988 Aug 23 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1139 South Africa (Prime Minister's talk with Tiny Rowland, Chief Executive of Lonrho, about Namibia and Angola) 1982 Jan 29 1982 Feb 25 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/2564 United Nations (World Conference of the United Nations Decade for Women, Copenhagen, July 1980: ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)) 1980 Jul 8 1987 Jul 28 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/2044 Civil Service (Property Services Agency (PSA) restructuring) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 3 1988 Feb 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2676 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS)) (Part 4) 1989 Mar 1 1989 Aug 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1814 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 20) 1985 Apr 1 1986 Jun 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1395 Sri Lanka (Internal situation; UK/Sri Lankan relations; aid to Sri Lanka) (Part 1) 1979 May 21 1984 Oct 22 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2417 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan) 1983 Feb 3 1988 Dec 5 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1897 Prime Minister (Meeting with members of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee) 1986 Jul 15 1986 Aug 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2529 Soviet Union (Prime Minister's visit to Soviet Union, March-April 1987) (Part 1) 1987 Jan 5 1987 Mar 31 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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