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
PREM19/1359 Prime Minister (Lord Longford's article for ‘The Universe’, drawing on interview with Prime Minister) 1982 Sep 29 1983 Feb 25 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2379 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 17) 1987 Nov 9 1988 Sep 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2910 Australia (Visits to the UK by Australian Foreign Ministers: Anthony Street, William Hayden and Gareth Evans) 1981 Feb 16 1990 Dec 10 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2219 Home Affairs (Data protection) (Part 1) 1980 Nov 27 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1236 Foreign policy (Meeting of South Pacific Forum; correspondence with Bob Hawke, Prime Minister of Australia, on a single regional organisation in South Pacific) 1980 Jul 17 1984 Apr 24 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1452 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 31) 1984 Dec 17 1985 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1801 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland) (Part 10) 1985 Sep 3 1986 Mar 7 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2665 European Policy (European Council meeting, Madrid, June 1989) (Part 32) 1989 Jun 7 1989 Jun 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1995 United Nations (Visits to UK by UN Secretary-General, Javier Perez de Cuellar; question of his successor) (Part 2) 1982 May 7 1986 Nov 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2525 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 15) 1987 Sep 2 1988 May 26 2016 Nov 7 2
PREM19/1676 Belize (Dispute with Guatemala) (Part 2) 1982 May 5 1983 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3110 Parliament (Parliamentary scrutiny of European Community legislation: UK representation in European Community institutions; House of Commons links with the European Community) 1980 May 7 1990 Oct 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2343 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; draft White Paper) (Part 17) 1988 Dec 20 1988 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2849 Security (Leak to The Observer relating to Westland plc) 1985 Dec 24 1989 Jun 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2186 Government Buildings (The Albert Memorial) 1987 Sep 28 1987 Dec 2 2016 Jul 21

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