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
PREM19/1230 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 26) 1984 Jul 7 1984 Jul 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/893 Prime Minister (Disappearance and rescue of Mark Thatcher in Algeria during Paris to Dakar car rally) 1981 Dec 17 1982 Sep 13 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 104
PREM19/557 Parliament (House of Commons procedure; outstanding recommendations of Select Committee on Procedure; disclosure of documents to Select Committees; review of work of Departmental Select Committees) (Part 4) 1980 Jun 20 1981 Sep 4 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 296
PREM19/217 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 5) 1980 May 1 1980 Jul 16 2010 Dec 30 Secret 209
PREM19/2557 Transport (Policy on roads: White Paper; review of the roads programme) (Part 3) 1986 Dec 12 1988 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2031 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; subscription television; independent television producers; Broadcasting White Paper) (Part 6) 1988 Jan 4 1988 Sep 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2700 Government Buildings (Purchase of government accommodation in the Whitehall area) 1983 Jul 23 1989 Sep 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1828 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; aftermath of shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau, 17 April 1984; severance of diplomatic relations) (Part 3B) 1984 May 31 1986 Apr 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1485 European Policy (European Convention on Human Rights: corporal punishment in schools) 1980 Nov 12 1984 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 72
PREM19/478 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Rayner Scrutiny Programme) (Part 8) 1981 Feb 2 1981 May 20 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 436
PREM19/2410 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with John Browne MP, 21 October 1986: discussion of proposed M3 extension around Winchester. Note: With maps) 1981 Dec 7 1987 Apr 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1868 Nationalised Industries (Nationalised industry policy; financial control) (Part 10) 1985 Mar 21 1986 May 27 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2545 Soviet Union (Visits to UK by President Gorbachev) (Part 1) 1987 Nov 20 1988 Oct 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1749 European policy (European Community Budget: UK Presidency; policy after European court judgment on illegally set budget; protection of VAT ceiling and UK abatement) (Part 32) 1986 Oct 1 1986 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1406 Yugoslavia (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Milka Planinc, November 1983: meeting with Prime Minister) 1982 Jun 30 1983 Nov 25 2014 Jan 3

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