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 Pages Link to selectionssort ascending
PREM19/2523 Social Services (Pensions: portable pensions; Inquiry into Provision for Retirement; consultation document on personal pensions) 1983 Sep 30 1988 Feb 19 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2525 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 15) 1987 Sep 2 1988 May 26 2016 Nov 7 2
PREM19/2528 South Africa (Report of the Erasmus Commission on alleged irregularities in the South African Department of Information; resignation of President John Vorster; European Community Erasmus programme (student exchange programme)) 1979 Jun 6 1987 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2532 Soviet Union (Soviet economy: grain harvest) 1979 Dec 1 1987 Jun 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2544 Soviet Union (Visit to UK by Dr Anatoly Koryagin: meeting with Prime Minister; abuse of psychiatry in USSR) 1987 Sep 29 1987 Nov 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2550 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy) (Part 4) 1986 Aug 18 1987 Oct 29 2016-07-2016
PREM19/2551 Trade (Multilateral trade negotiations) 1979 May 17 1987 Nov 19 2016-07-2016
PREM19/2553 Trade (Proposed guidance on open-ended contracts: non-competitive government contracts; political (non-commercial) clauses in local authority contracts) 1980 May 2 1987 Jun 22 2016 Jul 21
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
PREM19/2555 Transport (Autoguide route guidance system) 1988 Feb 5 1988 Feb 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2557 Transport (Policy on roads: White Paper; review of the roads programme) (Part 3) 1986 Dec 12 1988 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2558 Turkey (UK/Turkish relations) 1979 Nov 15 1987 Jul 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2559 Turkey (Prime Minister's visit to Turkey, April 1988) (Part 1) 1988 Feb 1 1988 Jul 4 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2560 United Nations (Call on Prime Minister by Sir Anthony Parsons, UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations, August 1979: valedictory despatch by Sir John Thomson, UK Permanent Representative, April 1987) 1979 Jul 6 1987 Apr 15 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/2561 United Nations (Indian initiative for Heads of State or Government to attend a Summit meeting at the United Nations General Assembly, September 1983; President Reagan's invitation to Western leaders to attend meeting in New York, September 1988) 1983 Apr 3 1988 Sep 26 2016 Dec 30

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