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 releasesort ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2331 Morocco (UK/Moroccan relations: visit to UK by King Hassan) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 27 1987 Nov 27 Closed or retained
PREM19/132 Zambia (Policy) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Jul 23 Closed
PREM19/209 Energy (Offshore supplies interest relief grants scheme; report on irregular payments) 1979 Sep 13 1980 Jun 2 2034 Jan 1 Retained (personal information)
PREM19/1366 Royal family (Visit by the Queen to Liverpool, May 1984) 1984 Mar 12 1984 May 14 2032 Jan 1 Retained
PREM19/85 Ireland (Information policy - correspondence with HRH Prince of Wales) 1979 Nov 16 1979 Dec 17 2020 Jan 1 Unknown
PREM19/2181 France (Anglo-French relations: French disruption of UK lamb trade; Anglo-French nuclear defence cooperation; Prime Minister Michel Rocard's environmental initiative) (Part 4) 1986 Nov 3 1988 Nov 28 2017 Jan 30
PREM19/2937 Defence (Prime Ministers seminar on defence questions, Chequers, 30 September 1989) 1989 Jul 4 1990 Jan 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2677 Food (Food safety) (Part 1) 1989 Jan 30 1989 Mar 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3135 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Extraordinary European Council meeting in Rome, October 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Sep 27 1990 Oct 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2871 Soviet Union (Visit to the UK by General Dimitri Yazov, Soviet Defence Minister, July 1989) 1989 Jun 16 1989 Aug 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2627 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 43) 1989 Aug 2 1989 Dec 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3038 Industrial Policy (Dispute between the National Graphical Association and the Stockport Messenger Group: print unions dispute at Wapping) 1983 Nov 26 1990 Feb 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2781 National Health (John Corrie MP's Bill on Abortion (1979): David Alton's Abortion Bill (1988); abortion policy) 1979 Jun 5 1989 Feb 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2825 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris for Anglo-French Summit, February 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Jan 20 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2980 European Policy (Special European Council meeting, Dublin, April 1990; European Council meeting, Dublin, June 1990) (Part 36A) 1990 Feb 16 1990 Jul 13 2016 Dec 30

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