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
PREM19/1591 Overseas Aid (Overseas aid policy: International Development Association (IDA)) (Part 4) 1984 Jan 4 1985 Jun 25 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2098 Economic Policy (Pension funds) 1987 Mar 24 1987 Jul 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2949 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 44) 1990 Jan 5 1990 Aug 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2238 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 12) 1988 May 3 1988 Jul 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1467 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Bonn) (Part 18) 1984 Sep 7 1985 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1816 Israel (Prime Minister's visit to Israel, May 1986) 1986 Mar 6 1986 Jun 16 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2691 France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand) (Part 6) 1986 Dec 1 1989 Aug 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2031 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; subscription television; independent television producers; Broadcasting White Paper) (Part 6) 1988 Jan 4 1988 Sep 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2563 United Nations (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)) (Part 1) 1979 May 9 1987 Sep 29 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/1342 Portugal (Visits to UK by Prime Minister Dr Sa Carneiro (May 1980), Vice Prime Minister Professor Freitas do Amaral (November 1982) and Prime Minister Dr Mario Soares (November 1984); meetings with Prime Minister) 1980 Mar 17 1984 Dec 17 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1691 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems (HARM/ALARM air launched missiles)) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 1 1986 May 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3178 Soviet Union (Soviet leadership: major political speeches) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 2 1990 Jun 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2358 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 13) 1987 Oct 5 1988 Mar 31 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/2884 Transport (London Regional Transport: Central London Rail Study) (Part 2) 1986 Dec 11 1989 Mar 20 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1784 Home Affairs (Prime Minister's seminar on crime prevention, January 1986) (Part 1) 1985 Aug 8 1986 Mar 20 2014 Dec 30

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