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 descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1448 Disasters (Bradford City Football Club fire: Prime Minister's visit to Bradford, May 1985) 1985 May 12 1985 May 22 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 42
PREM19/535 Middle East (Prime Minister's visits to Kuwait and Bahrain, September 1981: meetings with Rulers and Ministers) 1981 Apr 15 1981 Nov 9 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 151
PREM19/2532 Soviet Union (Soviet economy: grain harvest) 1979 Dec 1 1987 Jun 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2024 Broadcasting (Legislation on broadcasting; Green Paper on radio policy; breakfast television) (Part 2) 1982 Oct 21 1988 Apr 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2690 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Australia, Bahrain, Oman, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Dubai, August 1988: policy. Note: With photograph) 1988 Aug 1 1989 May 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/192 Economic policy (Demonetisation of old sixpence) 1980 Jan 25 1980 Jan 28 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 6
PREM19/2571 USA (Visits to UK by Ambassador Paul Nitze, United States Special Adviser on Arms Control) 1983 Jun 28 1987 Feb 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1760 France (Prime Minister's meeting with French Prime Minister, Laurent Fabius) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 4 1986 Oct 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1368 Royal family (Princess Margaret's proposed visit to China for Royal Ballet performance; Duke of Edinburgh's visit to China as President of World Wildlife Fund (WWF)) 1982 Aug 5 1984 Jan 30 2014 Nov 28
PREM19/1032 European policy (Prime Minister's meetings with European Commissioner Christopher Tugendhat, February 1981 and September 1983) 1981 Jan 16 1983 Sep 22 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 51
PREM19/792 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong: Prime Minister's visit to China; special briefing) 1982 Sep 6 1982 Sep 23 2012 Dec 28 Secret 317
PREM19/456 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 8) 1981 Apr 1 1981 Nov 19 2011 Dec 30 Secret 248
PREM19/112 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 7) 1979 Sep 11 1979 Oct 10 2009 Dec 30 Secret 293
PREM19/2403 Prime Minister (Arab League Delegation visit to London: meeting with Prime Minister; supply of IR18 Thermal Imager to Syria) (Part 3) 1983 Apr 15 1988 Mar 15 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1857 National Health (Area Health Authority Chairmen: reappointment and remuneration) 1981 Apr 27 1986 Jan 28 2016 Feb 19

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