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?sort ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2257 Industrial Policy (Future of the Rover Group) (Part 15) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2978 European Policy (Proposal for a Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Mediterranean) 1990 Oct 8 1990 Oct 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2156 European Policy (European Council meeting, Brussels, June 1987) (Part 26) 1986 May 1 1987 Jul 1 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1631 Security (Security vetting: guidelines for Private Office posts) 1983 Jun 23 1985 Jan 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/271 Industrial policy (Industrial support) (Part 1) 1980 Aug 8 1980 Oct 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 84
PREM19/759 Foreign policy (East/West relations; United States foreign policy) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 2 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 227
PREM19/424 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 9) 1981 Jun 11 1981 Oct 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 272
PREM19/1360 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Clifton Garvin, Chairman of Exxon Corporation, and Archibald Forster, Chairman of Esso Petroleum, July 1984) 1982 Jun 7 1984 Jun 3 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1024 European policy (European Council meeting, Copenhagen, December 1982: briefing papers) (Part 12A) 1982 Nov 16 1982 Dec 2 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 279
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
PREM19/2164 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 34) 1986 Dec 1 1987 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2809 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings and correspondence with Jack Peel (Director of Industrial Relations at the European Commission until March 1981)) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 1 1989 Sep 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1996 United Nations (United Nations financial crisis) 1986 Mar 7 1986 Apr 28 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1546 Ireland (Lear Fan aircraft project at Aldergove) 1980 Feb 12 1985 Oct 15 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 72
PREM19/191 Economic policy (Proposal for a national investment trust to promote wider property ownership: report by Leo Pliatzky, July 1980) 1980 Jul 17 1980 Dec 23 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 59

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