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 descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/930 Trade unions (Trade union education and training: continuance of government grant) 1979 Dec 13 1982 Mar 1 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 71
PREM19/2880 Trade (Britain's international trading policies: General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Uruguay Round; export promotion) (Part 6) 1987 Feb 18 1989 Aug 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/598 Trade (Britain's international trading policies; non-tariff barriers; effects on UK industry of open trading system) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 2 1981 Oct 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 167
PREM19/1397 Trade (Britain’s international trade policies; problems with Spain and Japan; rolling back protectionism; export promotion) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 4 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1984 Trade (Commodity policy: International Tin Agreement and International Tin Council; implications of difficulties in tin market for Cornish tin mines) (Part 1) 1985 Jan 29 1986 Jan 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2879 Trade (Commodity policy: International Tin Council litigation; International Coffee Agreement) (Part 4) 1986 Nov 5 1989 Nov 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1985 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 Natural Rubber Agreement) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 5 1986 May 30 2016 Feb 19
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
PREM19/2883 Trade (Consumer safety) 1984 Feb 6 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2554 Trade (Coordination of Ministerial trade promotion visits overseas; reports on major civil overseas sales prospects) 1981 Apr 15 1988 Oct 6 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/929 Trade (Difficulties of textile and clothing industries; closure of mills; low pay in the industry; policy on imports; quota issue) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 30 1982 Apr 23 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 207
PREM19/1987 Trade (Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD); review of ECGD's status; financial position) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 17 1986 May 23 2016 Feb 19
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
PREM19/3190 Trade (Freeports in the UK) 1983 Feb 25 1990 May 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2550 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy) (Part 4) 1986 Aug 18 1987 Oct 29 2016-07-2016

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