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
PREM19/2297 Libya (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 7) 1986 May 1 1987 Feb 27 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2569 USA (Visit to UK by President Reagan, June 1988) 1984 Jun 1 1988 Sep 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2174 Foreign Policy (Future inward and outward State visits; visits by members of the Royal Family) 1985 Sep 1 1988 Aug 5 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2516 Security (Lord and Lady Rothschild) 1987 Jun 8 1987 Jul 17 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2484 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing at) (Part 5) 1986 Apr 17 1988 May 27 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2061 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 10) 1988 Feb 3 1988 Jul 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2486 Security (Correspondence with Anthony Steven Divall) 1988 May 31 1988 Oct 4 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2325 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 15) 1986 Jun 3 1987 Feb 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2176 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Australia, Bahrain, Oman, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Dubai, August 1988) (Part 1) 1988 May 12 1988 Jul 31 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2524 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 14) 1986 Dec 9 1987 Aug 28 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2487 Security (Correspondence with Gavin Strong MP concerning Archibald and Jane Williams) 1988 Feb 19 1988 Mar 15 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2326 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 16) 1987 Mar 5 1987 Sep 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2526 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 16) 1988 Jun 2 1988 Aug 26 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2488 Security (Correspondence with Lieutenant Colonel Robert Butler) 1983 Apr 15 1988 Mar 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2641 Economic Policy (Paris Economic Summit, July 1989) 1989 Aug 1 1989 Sep 4 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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