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?sort ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2363 Nationalised Industries (NATO Summits) (Part 1) 1982 Mar 3 1982 Jun 11 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3193 Transport (London Regional Transport: Central London Rail Study) (Part 3) 1989 Apr 3 1990 Apr 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2498 Security (Threat of unauthorised disclosure by former employee of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)) 1987 Feb 6 1987 Mar 20 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1712 Economic policy (Consultation with International Monetary Fund (IMF): meetings with IMF and World Bank)(Part 2) 1983 Mar 7 1986 Sep 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 256
PREM19/1369 Science and technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base; the science budget; review of high energy particle physics (HEPP); annual review of government funded research and development 1984) (Part 1) 1983 Sep 15 1984 Jul 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/750 European policy (European Council meeting in Brussels, March 1982: briefing papers) 1982 Mar 16 1982 Mar 26 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 208
PREM19/65 Greece (PM Karamanlis visit to UK, Oct 1979) 1979 Sep 5 1979 Oct 23 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 56
PREM19/406 Civil service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs) (Part 1) 1980 Feb 8 1981 Jul 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 288
PREM19/2977 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 47) 1990 Jul 2 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2150 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 18) 1987 Oct 1 1988 Mar 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1005 Economic policy (Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1976: exemption of Stock Exchange) 1979 May 30 1983 Nov 30 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 190
PREM19/670 China (Prime Minister's visit to China, Hong Kong & Japan, September 1982: briefing) (Part 1) 1982 May 6 1982 Sep 13 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 257
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
PREM19/320 Pakistan (Visit to UK by Agha Shahi, Foreign Minister, June 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 Jun 12 1980 Jun 19 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 70
PREM19/2821 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Strasbourg for European Council meeting, December 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Sep 3 1989 Dec 12 2016 Dec 30

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