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 classification Pagessort ascending Link to selections
PREM19/1980 Sri Lanka (Visits to UK by Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa (July 1979 - May 1986) and President Jayewardine (June 1984)) (Part 1. Note: With photograph) 1979 May 5 1986 May 23 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2465 Regional Policy (Inner Cities Initiative: launch by Prime Minister of 'Action for Cities'; function of Chancellor of Duchy of Lancaster as Minister coordinating inner city policy; review of Cabinet Office Unit under Eric Sorensen) (Part 13) 1988 Mar 1 1988 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1983 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy; Prime Minister's 'Better Made in Britain' seminar, 25 February 1986) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 3 1986 Mar 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2658 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Environmental Protection Bill) (Part 12) 1989 Nov 1 1989 Nov 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1804 Industrial policy (Moratorium on applications for support and innovation: research and development) (Part 1) 1984 Nov 8 1986 Jan 20 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2378 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 16) 1987 Feb 2 1987 Oct 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/364 Security (Policy on interception) (Part 2) 1980 Mar 21 1980 Apr 11 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2511 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 12) 1988 Oct 5 1988 Dec 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1725 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: city technology colleges; Education Bill; academic tenure; education reform; implications of removing responsibility for education from Local Education Authorities (LEAs); future of polytechnics) (Part 9) 1986 Oct 1 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1382 Security (Oleg Bitov, Soviet defector; Bitov's return to Moscow) 1983 Oct 21 1984 Sep 17 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2286 Japan (Vredeling Proposal on labour relations in the European Community; trade links between the European Community, USA and Japan) 1983 Dec 2 1988 Mar 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2994 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visits to Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Switzerland, 16-23 September 1990) 1990 Aug 17 1990 Oct 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2222 Home Affairs (Monopolies and Mergers Commission Report on proposed takeover of House of Fraser by Lonrho) 1987 Jan 12 1987 Oct 28 Retained Closed for 40 years
PREM19/1302 Libya (Anglo-Libyan relations; aftermath of shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau, 17 April 1984; severance of diplomatic relations) (Part 3A) 1984 May 1 1984 May 25 2014 Jan 3
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

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