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
PREM19/2386 Poland (Prime Minister's visit to Poland, November 1988 ) (Part 2) 1988 Nov 1 1988 Dec 17 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2085 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 17) 1987 Jul 6 1987 Dec 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2928 Comoros (UK/Comoros relations) 1987 Jun 5 1990 Oct 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2227 Home Affairs (Behaviour of British football fans abroad: football hooliganism) (Part 6) 1986 Sep 25 1988 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1807 Industrial policy (Proposed government strategy for industry and developments in high technology) 1985 Jul 10 1986 May 9 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2675 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS)) (Part 3) 1987 Jun 10 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2021 Bahrain (UK/Bahraini relations) 1979 Jun 26 1987 Jul 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2553 Trade (Proposed guidance on open-ended contracts: non-competitive government contracts; political (non-commercial) clauses in local authority contracts) 1980 May 2 1987 Jun 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1682 China (Sino-British relations) (Part 3) 1985 Jun 1 1986 Jun 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3132 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Switzerland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, September 1990: administrative arrangements) 1989 Dec 1 1990 Oct 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2349 National Health (Seminars on health and social security matters: Social Security Reviews) (Part 2) 1984 Jul 6 1988 Feb 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1552 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 11) 1985 Nov 1 1985 Nov 14 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2035 Chad (Internal situation) 1981 Nov 12 1987 Oct 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2867 Soviet Union (Visits to the UK by Soviet Deputy Prime Ministers: Leonid Konstandov, Vladimir Kamentsev and Aleksandra Biryukova) 1983 Sep 23 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2193 Government Machinery (Monopolies and mergers) (Part 1) 1983 Jun 30 1987 Feb 26 2016 Jul 21

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