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
PREM19/1805 Industrial policy (Moratorium on applications for support and innovation: research and development) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 18 1986 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2671 European Policy (Proposals for a common format for the passports of European Community member states: abolition of frontiers formalities within the European Community) 1980 Apr 14 1989 Mar 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2416 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Martin Feldstein, Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers in Washington, on 27 April 1984) 1984 Mar 14 1988 Jan 11 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2018 Arts and Amenities (Prime Minister's meeting with Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza to discuss possible siting in UK of the Thyssen Collection) (Part 1) 1988 Feb 27 1988 May 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1680 Cabinet (Questions of Procedure for Ministers) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 18 1986 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3120 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Jan Steyn, head of the Urban Foundation in South Africa) 1988 May 13 1990 May 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1245a Germany (Visits to UK by Chancellor Helmut Kohl; Anglo-German Summit) (Part 8A) 1983 Oct 11 1984 Aug 29 2014 Jan 3 2
PREM19/2257 Industrial Policy (Future of the Rover Group) (Part 15) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1550 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 9) 1985 Jul 1 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2032 Cambodia (Internal situation: derecognition of Pol Pot regime; Prince Sihanouk) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 16 1988 Nov 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2055 Defence (Arms control) (Part 12) 1987 May 1 1987 Jun 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2864 South Africa (Visits to London by South African Finance Ministers: Senator Owen Horwood (October 1979) and Barend du Plessis (April 1989)) 1979 Jun 19 1989 Apr 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1337 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 12) 1984 Mar 6 1984 Sep 26 2014 Jan 3 3
PREM19/2595 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy: Broadcasting Bill) (Part 9) 1989 Jul 3 1989 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1773 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; Efficiency Unit report on 'The Use of Value for Money Targets 1985-86', volume II) 1986 Apr 1 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30

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