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 Pages Link to selectionssort ascending
PREM19/2875 Sri Lanka (UK/Sri Lanka relations: aid to Sri Lanka; internal situation) (Part 3) 1986 Mar 3 1989 Sep 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2893 Venezuela (Possible visit of the Venezuelan President-elect, Jaime Lusinchi: internal situation) 1983 Nov 28 1989 Sep 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2895 Yugoslavia (Visits to the UK by Josip Vrhovec, Foreign Secretary of Yugoslavia (June 1981); visit of his successor Mr Budimir Loncar (April 1989)) 1981 Mar 26 1989 Apr 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2906 Angola (Visit to the UK by Angolan Ambassador in Brussels, Fernando Van Dunem, May 1980: possible visits of President dos Santos) 1980 May 8 1990 Mar 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2924 Civil Service (Proposal by Anne Sloman and Hugo Young of Radio 4 for a radio series on the Treasury: proposed series by the BBC on 'Pillars of State') 1982 Nov 30 1990 Mar 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2934 Defence (War widows' pensions) 1979 Nov 1 1990 Apr 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2935 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems) (Part 8) 1990 Jan 18 1990 Jul 30 2016 Dec 30
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
PREM19/2957 Education (General policy on education) (Part 26) 1990 Jun 1 1990 Nov 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2958 Education (Student loans) (Part 3) 1990 Jan 10 1990 Apr 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2966 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; environmental objectives and land use planning) (Part 14) 1990 Feb 6 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2987 European Policy (Visit to the UK by Jose Maria de Areilza, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, February 1982: possible visit by Catherine Lalumiere, Secretary General of the Council of Europe) 1981 Jul 15 1990 Feb 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2992 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 10) 1989 Dec 1 1990 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2996 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Switzerland, September 1990) (Folder 2) 1990 Aug 20 1990 Sep 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3005 Germany (Visits to the UK by Richard von Weizsacker, President of the Federal Republic of Germany) 1986 Feb 3 1990 Oct 1 2016 Dec 30

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