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 descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2253 Industrial Policy (Research and development) (Part 4) 1987 Mar 28 1987 Jul 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1532 Hong Kong (Power projects in Hong Kong and China involving UK companies: Castle Peak power station in Hong Kong; Guandong nuclear power project) (Part 3) 1982 Dec 2 1985 Dec 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2051 Cyprus (Visits to UK by President Kyprianou and his successor President George Vassiliou) (Part 2) 1985 Mar 6 1988 Dec 21 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2587 Arts and Amenities (Preservation of the Rose Theatre) 1989 May 9 1989 Jun 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1829 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; release of UK hostages) (Part 4A) 1985 Feb 1 1986 Apr 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2713 Government Machinery (Request for part of Property Services Agency, PSA Supplies, to trade under the name 'The Crown Suppliers': the future of The Crown Suppliers) 1983 Sep 20 1989 Nov 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3206 USA (Prime Minister's meeting with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, 5 February 1990) 1990 Jan 25 1990 Mar 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2375 Overseas Aid (Sale of BAe 748 to Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT)) 1984 Dec 4 1987 Nov 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1630 Security (Hijacking of an Air Tanzania Boeing 737 by Tanzanian dissidents: surrender at Stansted Airport, 28 February 1982) 1982 Feb 28 1985 Nov 19 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2903 Agriculture (Nutrition labelling of food: additives in food; environmental labelling of consumer products) 1987 Jul 23 1990 Oct 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2214 Histories (Histories of Special Operations Executive (SOE)) 1980 May 1 1988 Nov 24 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2904 Agriculture (Salmonella and eggs) (Part 1) 1988 Dec 8 1990 Feb 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2215 Home Affairs (The 1981 and 1991 Census) 1979 Aug 13 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1501 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Egypt and Jordan, September 1985: policy and briefing) 1985 Jul 15 1985 Sep 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2075 Disasters (Sinking of Townsend Thoresen ferry Herald of Free Enterprise at Zeebrugge, 6 March 1987) 1987 Mar 6 1988 Feb 9 2016 Jul 21 6

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