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 ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2110 Economic Policy (Toronto Economic Summit: Prime Minister's Personal Representative for Economic Summits; 'Sherpa' papers) (Part 3) 1988 Jun 1 1988 Jul 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2477 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget; national priorities for science and technology) (Part 5) 1986 Nov 14 1987 Aug 13 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2330 Morocco (Visits to UK by Moroccan Foreign Minister M'hamed Boucetta and his successor Dr Filali) 1981 Aug 20 1988 Sep 16 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/1341 Peru (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Dr Manuel Ulloa Elias, January 1981; possible visit by Prime Minister Dr Schwalb) 1980 Dec 1 1984 Jun 18 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1636 Security (Leak to press on expulsion of Soviet Embassy officials in April 1985) 1985 Apr 18 1985 Jun 17 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1839 Mapower (Employment policy: enterprise and employment measures; feasibility study of a 'Workfare' scheme to replace long term unemployment in UK) (Part 3) 1985 Aug 5 1986 May 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2099 Economic Policy (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor of the Exchequer) (Part 2) 1986 Nov 3 1988 Aug 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2950 Economic Policy (Review of policy on film finance: Prime Minister's seminar for the British Film Industry, 15 June 1990) (Part 2) 1990 Mar 16 1990 Jun 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2239 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 13) 1988 Aug 5 1988 Dec 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1611 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with James Hill MP to discuss Southampton's Docks and Freeport) 1985 May 16 1985 Oct 14 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1714 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Tokyo) (Part 20) 1985 Jun 14 1986 May 6 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2938 Defence (Service exercises to test the transition to war and home defence procedures: Ministerial participation in NATO exercises) 1979 Jul 25 1990 Nov 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2436 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Brussels, June 1987: administrative arrangements) 1987 Mar 6 1987 Jul 2 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2693 France (Franco-British Council conference, Avignon, November 1984, and subsequent correspondence) 1983 Jun 27 1989 May 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2034 Canada (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers, Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Brian Mulroney) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 2 1988 Mar 28 2016 Dec 30

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