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 classification Pagessort descending Link to selections
PREM19/2810 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Lord Young: Enterprise Unit) 1984 Jun 1 1989 Feb 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2010 Aerospace (European Airbus) (Part 2) 1986 Mar 18 1987 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2480 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's reception for industrial designers, January 1987) 1986 Jan 7 1987 Feb 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1988 Trade (Inward investment; review of overseas promotion) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 17 1986 Jul 17 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2668 European Policy (European Council meeting, Strasbourg, December 1989) (Part 35) 1989 Nov 3 1989 Dec 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1809 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach) (Part 12) 1985 Nov 15 1985 Nov 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/118 Royal family (Security of HMQ during visit to Lusaka CHOGM) 1979 May 9 1979 Jul 27 Temporarily Retained by Department Unknown
PREM19/2384 Parliament (MPs' pay and pensions) (Part 6) 1985 Sep 4 1987 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/1272 Immigration (British Nationality Act 1981; British Nationality (Falkland Islands) Amendment Bill) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 19 1984 Apr 10 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2516 Security (Lord and Lady Rothschild) 1987 Jun 8 1987 Jul 17 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1730 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 6) 1986 Jan 6 1986 Mar 26 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1387 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 10 1984 Feb 9 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2292 Legal Procedure (Civil Justice Review) 1984 Dec 10 1988 Jun 20 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3002 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 5) 1990 Sep 5 1990 Nov 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2243 India (UK/Indian relations: Rihand power station) (Part 5) 1985 Jun 3 1987 May 21 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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