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
PREM19/2382 Parliament (Queen's Speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament: televising the State Opening) (Part 7) 1986 Jul 21 1987 Jun 29 2016 Jul 21 5
PREM19/2079 Economic Policy (Budget) (Part 16) 1986 May 12 1987 Sep 4 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2920 Canada (UK/Canadian relations) (Part 6) 1985 Sep 5 1990 Jun 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2224 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: increase in the prison population) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 12 1987 Oct 27 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/1239 Foreign policy (Seminars on foreign policy at Chequers, October 1984) 1984 Jun 1 1984 Oct 19 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1455 Economic policy (The Budget, 1984 and 1985) (Part 13) 1984 Mar 15 1985 Mar 8 2014 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
PREM19/2669 European Policy (European Council meeting, Strasbourg, December 1989) (Part 36) 1989 Dec 12 1989 Dec 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2017 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 42) 1987 Sep 7 1988 Dec 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2544 Soviet Union (Visit to UK by Dr Anatoly Koryagin: meeting with Prime Minister; abuse of psychiatry in USSR) 1987 Sep 29 1987 Nov 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1679 Cabinet (Cabinet Committee structure and membership) (Part 2) 1982 Oct 6 1986 Jan 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3119 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with John Broome, 7 February 1990: proposed development of Battersea Power Station) 1990 Feb 2 1990 Feb 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2346 National Health (Primary health care: draft White Paper) (Part 1) 1986 Mar 6 1988 Oct 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1549 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 8) 1984 Nov 27 1985 Jun 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2022 Bermuda (UK/Bermuda relations; meetings with John Swan, Premier of Bermuda) (Part 1) 1982 May 21 1987 Jun 26 2016 Jul 21

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