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 Pagessort descending Link to selections
PREM19/1455 Economic policy (The Budget, 1984 and 1985) (Part 13) 1984 Mar 15 1985 Mar 8 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2371 Norway (State Visit of King Olaf V of Norway, April 1988) 1987 Nov 13 1988 Apr 13 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3212 Broadcasting (Conservative Central Office media monitoring: BBC coverage of the American bombing raid on Libya, 15 April 1986) (Part 3 annex) 1986 Sep 20 1986 Oct 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2504 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 5) 1987 Jan 8 1987 Mar 12 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1718 Economic policy (Financial Services Bill: Stock Exchange deregulation, the 'Big Bang' commercial fraud; Roskill Report on Fraud Trials) (Part 3) 1985 Feb 3 1986 Sep 26 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1375 Security (Custody contacts of persons accused of security offences, following arrest of Security Service officer Michael Bettaney) 1984 May 1 1984 Jul 13 2014 Jan 3 1
PREM19/2262 Information and Publicity (Possible separate Press Office for Attorney General's Office: deferment until after 'Spycatcher' case) 1988 Jan 11 1988 Jan 20 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2983 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS): economic and monetary union) (Part 7) 1990 May 1 1990 Jun 27 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2175 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain, September 1988) 1988 Aug 1 1988 Nov 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1296 Jordan (Visits to UK by King Hussein; meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1982 Jul 1 1984 Nov 30 2014 Jan 3 4
PREM19/2875 Sri Lanka (UK/Sri Lanka relations: aid to Sri Lanka; internal situation) (Part 3) 1986 Mar 3 1989 Sep 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2893 Venezuela (Possible visit of the Venezuelan President-elect, Jaime Lusinchi: internal situation) 1983 Nov 28 1989 Sep 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2170 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 40) 1988 Oct 3 1989 Feb 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2828 Regional Policy (Inner city policy and problems: Urban Development Corporations; regeneration of London Docklands) (Part 16) 1989 Feb 7 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2015 Angola (Internal situation: UK/Angola relations) (Part 2) 1984 Apr 3 1988 Aug 23 Retained Retained Sec 3.4

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