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 classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2029 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; subscription television; independent television producers) (Part 4) 1987 Mar 17 1987 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19
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
PREM19/1689 Defence (Development of torpedoes) 1979 Jul 20 1986 Dec 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3173 South Africa (Situation in Namibia) (Part 5) 1989 May 2 1990 Nov 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2356 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 11) 1986 Jul 1 1987 Feb 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2049 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting on South Africa in London, August 1986) 1986 Jul 4 1987 Jan 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2881 Trade (Trade in textiles and clothes: Multi-Fibre Agreement (MFA)) (Part 3) 1982 May 18 1989 Nov 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2201 Government Machinery (Review of the Lobby system of briefing journalists) 1981 Oct 27 1987 Jul 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2633 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - Toronto, June 1988) (Part 26) 1988 Jun 18 1989 Jun 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1965 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 8) 1985 Nov 1 1986 Feb 28 2016 Feb 19 2
PREM19/2461 Regional Policy (Inner Cities Initiative: development of Canary Wharf and extension of Docklands Light Railway; new Urban Development Corporations) (Part 9) 1986 Dec 2 1987 Apr 28 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/2318 Manpower (Special employment measures: White Paper 'Training for Employment') (Part 18) 1987 Dec 1 1988 Feb 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/967 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; policy on Civil Service numbers, Financial Management Initiative; response to Select Committee report on efficiency and effectiveness in Civil Service; the extension of unified grading; obligations of managers) (Part 12) 1982 Dec 2 1983 May 24 2013 Aug 1
PREM19/1311 Manpower (Strategy for industry and employment; reducing the burden of regulation on the economy; Chequers seminar on employment) (Part 1) 1983 Feb 15 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1658 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, February 1985) (Part 4A) 1984 Dec 10 1985 Feb 15 2014 Dec 30

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