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
PREM19/1549 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 8) 1984 Nov 27 1985 Jun 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2022 Bermuda (UK/Bermuda relations; meetings with John Swan, Premier of Bermuda) (Part 1) 1982 May 21 1987 Jun 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2858 Somalia (Visit to the UK by Major-General Mohamed Siad Barre, President of Somalia (June 1988); visit by Mohamed Ali Samatar, Prime Minister of Somalia (January 1989)) 1982 Mar 4 1989 Apr 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2190 Government Machinery (Transfer of responsibility for policy on legal deposit of books and publications from the Department of Trade and Industry to the Office of Arts and Libraries) 1985 Dec 5 1986 Apr 4 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3177 Soviet Union (Policy towards the Soviet Union: call on Prime Minister by Robert Conquest; Soviet and East European studies) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 13 1990 Jun 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1772 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; White Paper on deregulation) (Part 20) 1985 Dec 1 1986 May 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2617 Defence (Deployment of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) in Europe) (Part 6) 1989 Apr 3 1989 May 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1937 Science and Technology (Collyear Report on new materials technology) 1984 Aug 8 1986 Jan 9 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2451 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris, June 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 May 13 1988 Jun 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1301 Libya (Anglo-Libyan relations; aftermath of shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau, 17 April 1984; severance of diplomatic relations) (Part 2B) 1984 Apr 24 1984 Apr 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1648 Trade (Export promotion: General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); export credits; contract for second Bosphorus bridge) (Part 4) 1984 Jun 1 1985 Jun 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3026 Home Affairs (Report of the Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People; social security benefits and employment and training services for disabled people) 1982 May 7 1990 Jun 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2311 Local Government (Water industry: structural change; privatisation of the water authorities) (Part 4) 1979 Jan 1 1988 Jan 1 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1883 Parliament (House of Commons Defence Committee: Falklands Inquiry) 1982 Jun 24 1986 Jul 16 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2770 Malaysia (UK/Malaysia relations: meetings with Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia) (Part 3) 1987 Aug 17 1989 Oct 29 2016 Dec 30

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