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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/87 Italy (Italian PM’s visits to UK) (?Part 1) [possible filing error - Part 2 of this file has no clear Part 1] 1979 Jun 1 1979 Jul 16 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 104
PREM19/88 Italy (MT’s visits to Italy; Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 20 1979 Oct 8 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 101
PREM19/1295 Italy (MT’s visits to Italy; Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 2) 1980 Oct 29 1984 Feb 2 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 283
PREM19/1819 Italy (MT’s visits to Italy; Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 2 1986 May 27 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 104
PREM19/608 Italy (Prime Minister's visit to Italy, November 1980: Anglo/Italian Summit) 1980 Jul 25 1981 Feb 24 2011 Dec 30 Secret 86
PREM19/286 Italy (Visit to UK by Emilio Colombo, Foreign Minister, May 1980) 1980 May 27 1980 May 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 22
PREM19/3135 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Extraordinary European Council meeting in Rome, October 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Sep 27 1990 Oct 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3133 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Rome, December 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Nov 9 1990 Dec 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2447 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Italy for Anglo-Italian Summit, October 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Dec 21 1988 Oct 20 2016 Nov 7 9
PREM19/2457 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to the Venice Economic Summit, June 1987: administrative arrangements) 1986 Oct 30 1987 Aug 4 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1596 (Representation of political Parties at ceremonial occasions: Cenotaph, State banquets, Battle of Britain commemoration) 1983 Jul 27 1985 Aug 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1536 (UK/Indian relations: situation in Punjab; activities of Sikh extremists; proposed visit to UK by Rajiv Gandhi in June 1985) (Part 4) 1983 Mar 4 1985 May 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/386 Aerospace (British Aerospace’s bid for Arab Communications Satellite) 1981 Apr 7 1981 May 18 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 29
PREM19/947 Aerospace (Application by British Caledonian Airways to operate London-Los Angeles route) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Mar 11 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 18
PREM19/1664 Aerospace (British Aerospace (BAe): shares for employees) 1980 May 3 1986 Jul 29 2014 Dec 30

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