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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1680 Cabinet (Questions of Procedure for Ministers) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 18 1986 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/396 Cabinet (Questions of Procedure for Ministers: revision and reissue; disclosure of structure and details of Cabinet committees) 1979 May 4 1981 Sep 23 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 171
PREM19/2032 Cambodia (Internal situation: derecognition of Pol Pot regime; Prince Sihanouk) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 16 1988 Nov 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2033 Cameroon (UK/Cameroon relations) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 1 1988 Mar 25 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/668 Cameroon (Visit to UK by President Ahmadou Ahidjo, April 1982; meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 Dec 1 1982 May 20 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 124
PREM19/1681 Canada (Prime Minister's Visit to Canada, July 1986: Vancouver Transportation Exposition 1986 (Expo 86)) 1981 Jul 8 1986 Sep 12 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2920 Canada (UK/Canadian relations) (Part 6) 1985 Sep 5 1990 Jun 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/143 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 1) 1979 May 23 1980 Nov 6 2010 Dec 30 1 Confidential 248
PREM19/397 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 2) 1980 Nov 11 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 4 Secret 252
PREM19/398 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 2 1981 Oct 23 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 386
PREM19/669 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 4) 1981 Oct 26 1982 Feb 9 2013 Jul 25 Confidential 285
PREM19/1423 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 5) 1982 Feb 11 1985 Jun 14 2014 Dec 30 Secret 263
PREM19/2034 Canada (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers, Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Brian Mulroney) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 2 1988 Mar 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2035 Chad (Internal situation) 1981 Nov 12 1987 Oct 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1424 Chile (UK/Chilean relations: policy on arms sales) 1979 Sep 17 1985 Dec 9 2014 Dec 30 Secret 328

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