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 namesort ascending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2019 Arts and Amenities (Prime Minister's meeting with Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza to discuss possible siting in UK of the Thyssen Collection) (Part 2) 1988 Jun 2 1988 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/2018 Arts and Amenities (Prime Minister's meeting with Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza to discuss possible siting in UK of the Thyssen Collection) (Part 1) 1988 Feb 27 1988 May 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2587 Arts and Amenities (Preservation of the Rose Theatre) 1989 May 9 1989 Jun 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/958 Arts and amenities (Policy towards the arts; private sponsorship; financial scrutiny) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 26 1983 Nov 23 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 288
PREM19/2020 Arts and Amenities (Policy towards the arts; private sponsorship of the arts) (Part 2) 1983 Dec 2 1987 Mar 13 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/391 Arts and amenities (Future of the Wernher Collection at Luton Hoo) 1980 May 20 1981 Feb 2 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 31
PREM19/2908 Arts and Amenities (Future of the British Library: Prime Minister's meetings with Lord Trend and Sir Frederick Dainton and Minister for the Arts, Richard Luce) 1979 Aug 21 1990 May 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/390 Arts and amenities (Export licence for Leicester Codex by Leonardo da Vinci, following purchase by Dr Armand Hammer) 1980 Oct 22 1981 Feb 11 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 39
PREM19/140 Argentina (Visit to UK by Dr Martinez de Hoz, Minister of Economy, June 1980) 1980 Feb 26 1980 Jun 11 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 16
PREM19/658 Argentina (The Falkland Islands Service held in St Paul's Cathedral on 26 July 1982) 1982 Jul 2 1992 Jul 23 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 36
PREM19/611 Argentina (Frederick Forsyth's proposed book on the Falklands crisis) 1982 Jun 15 1982 Aug 4 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 25
PREM19/651 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 9) 1982 Jun 7 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret UK Eyes B 95
PREM19/650 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 8) 1982 Jun 1 1982 Jun 6 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 53
PREM19/649 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 7) 1982 May 21 1982 May 31 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 92
PREM19/648 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 6) 1982 May 15 1982 May 20 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 172

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