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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2125 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure; Education Reform Bill; opting out of Local Education Authority (LEA) control in Scotland; position of National Union of Students (NUS); Christian education; admission to maintained schools;polytechnics; national curriculum issues; Higginson Report on future of 'A' levels) (Part 18) 1988 Apr 6 1988 May 26 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1889 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's weekly diary meeting) 1979 May 21 1986 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1994 Uganda (Internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Apr 17 1986 Jan 31 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2093 Economic Policy (Exchange rate: exchange control policy) (Part 2) 1982 Apr 6 1986 Dec 11 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1385 Security (Case of Rhona Ritchie, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) official, convicted of passing classified documents to Egyptian diplomat in Tel Aviv; Security Commission investigation) 1982 Mar 17 1983 Jul 26 2014 Jan 3 1
PREM19/624 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 13) 1982 May 3 1982 May 5 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 303
PREM19/464 European policy (European Council meeting in London, November 1981) (Part 9) 1981 Nov 25 1981 Dec 6 2011 Dec 30 1 Confidential 171
PREM19/2290 Kenya (Prime Minister's visit to Kenya, January 1988) (Part 1) 1987 Nov 16 1988 Apr 20 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/59 Germany (MT visits to, Bonn Oct 1979) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 11 1979 Dec 7 2009 Dec 30 1 Secret 156
PREM19/1871 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy; British Shipbuilders) (Part 10) 1986 May 1 1986 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/714 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 18) 1982 Jul 19 1982 Oct 29 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 312
PREM19/2346 National Health (Primary health care: draft White Paper) (Part 1) 1986 Mar 6 1988 Oct 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3147 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to the Soviet Union, June 1990: administrative arrangements) 1989 Oct 6 1990 Jun 21 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
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

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