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?sort ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1172 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; development of cable systems and services; broadcasting policy) (Part 4) 1983 May 25 1984 Apr 27 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 304
PREM19/835 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 13) 1982 Jul 16 1982 Oct 15 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 152
PREM19/595 Security (Leak to 'The Times' of Cabinet proceedings on public expenditure) 1981 Oct 21 1981 Oct 28 2011 Dec 30 Secret 18
PREM19/2153 European Policy (European Council meeting, London, November 1981: meetings with Social Partners - European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and European Community Employers' Association (UNICE)) 1981 Oct 29 1987 Mar 18 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/255 Hong Kong (UK trade with China; power projects in Hong Kong involving UK companies) (Part 1) 1979 May 14 1980 Dec 31 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 142
PREM19/2790 New Zealand (Visits to the UK of New Zealand Leaders of the Opposition: David Lange and Jim Bolger) 1984 Jan 9 1989 Aug 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1819 Italy (MT’s visits to Italy; Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 2 1986 May 27 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 104
PREM19/1476 Environmental Affairs (Prime Minister's lunch with conservationists) 1985 Oct 21 1985 Nov 26 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 46
PREM19/1092 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 7) 1982 Sep 9 1983 May 10 2013 Aug 1 Secret 330
PREM19/755 European policy (European Council meeting, Luxembourg, December 1980: briefing papers) 1980 Nov 17 1980 Nov 28 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 271
PREM19/3077 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 24) 1990 Aug 20 1990 Aug 23 2017 Jul 20 Top Secret 370
PREM19/515 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 5) 1981 Jun 4 1981 Sep 8 2011 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/1978 Sport (Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, July 1986) 1985 Aug 1 1986 Dec 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/175 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 11 1980 Feb 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/2648 Education (School meals, milk and transport) 1979 Sep 13 1989 Jun 15 2016 Dec 30

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