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
PREM19/2212 Greece (Visits to UK by Andreas Papandreou as Leader of the Opposition and as Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1980 Oct 24 1988 Nov 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1230 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 26) 1984 Jul 7 1984 Jul 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2072 Defence (Royal Navy deployments) 1980 Jan 18 1987 Dec 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1795 Home Affairs (Review of the law on public order) (Part 2) 1985 Feb 12 1986 May 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2648 Education (School meals, milk and transport) 1979 Sep 13 1989 Jun 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1986 Trade (Commodity policy; International Tin Agreement and International Tin Council; implications of difficulties in tin market for Cornish tin mines; Select Committee report on the tin crisis; renegotiation of international rubber and cocoa agreements) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Oct 29 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2518 Singapore (Relations with UK: visits by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew; meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 May 24 1988 Mar 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3073 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 20) 1989 Dec 3 1990 Aug 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2337 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; Community Care Review) (Part 11) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Apr 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1324 Nationalised industries (Shipbuilding policy; prospects for British Shipbuilders) (Part 4) 1982 Jul 19 1983 Jun 27 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1671 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 6) 1986 Aug 1 1986 Nov 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1996 United Nations (United Nations financial crisis) 1986 Mar 7 1986 Apr 28 2015 Dec 30
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
PREM19/2180 Former Prime Minister (Proposed visit by Sir Harold Wilson to the Soviet Union) 1982 Oct 5 1986 Nov 19 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2996 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Switzerland, September 1990) (Folder 2) 1990 Aug 20 1990 Sep 23 2016 Dec 30

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