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 ascending Link to selections
PREM19/2243 India (UK/Indian relations: Rihand power station) (Part 5) 1985 Jun 3 1987 May 21 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1648 Trade (Export promotion: General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); export credits; contract for second Bosphorus bridge) (Part 4) 1984 Jun 1 1985 Jun 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1307 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 22) 1984 Aug 1 1984 Sep 27 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/294 Memoirs (BBC programmes based on Lord Mountbatten’s memoirs) 1980 Jan 16 1980 Nov 11 2015 Jun 23
PREM19/2992 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 10) 1989 Dec 1 1990 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2185 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Germany: Prime Minister's visit with Kohl to British Forces Germany; part 6. Note: With map) (Part 6) 1986 Aug 21 1987 Sep 12 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2865 South Africa (Visits to the UK by the South African Foreign Minister, Pik Botha) 1979 Oct 16 1989 Mar 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2047 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, October 1987) (Part 12) 1987 Oct 9 1987 Oct 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1227 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 23B) 1984 Mar 1 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2553 Trade (Proposed guidance on open-ended contracts: non-competitive government contracts; political (non-commercial) clauses in local authority contracts) 1980 May 2 1987 Jun 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2028 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; Peacock Report on Financing the BBC; BBC proposal for a world television news service) (Part 3) 1986 Jul 1 1987 Feb 21 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2697 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the Turkish Prime Minister in Germany) (Part 7) 1987 Jul 1 1989 Feb 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1825 Lebanon (Internal situation: Israeli/Lebanese hostilities; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 7) 1984 Mar 1 1986 Apr 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2407 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Gerry Steinberg MP, 23 February 1988) 1987 Dec 14 1988 Mar 18 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1864 National Health (Doctors' and dentists' pay; reports of Review Body) (Part 3) 1981 May 15 1986 May 29 2016 Feb 19

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