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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2597 China (Internal situation in China) (Part 1) 1979 May 30 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3 China (Premier Hua visit to UK, Oct 1979) (Part 1) 1979 May 18 1979 Nov 29 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 236
PREM19/670 China (Prime Minister's visit to China, Hong Kong & Japan, September 1982: briefing) (Part 1) 1982 May 6 1982 Sep 13 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 257
PREM19/962 China (Prime Minister's visit to China, Hong Kong & Japan, September 1982: policy) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 13 1983 Feb 24 2013 Aug 1 Secret 186
PREM19/1682 China (Sino-British relations) (Part 3) 1985 Jun 1 1986 Jun 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1425 China (Sino-British relations; defence sales) (Part 2) 1984 Mar 19 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 235
PREM19/963 China (Sino/British relations; defence sales) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1983 Nov 21 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 341
PREM19/2036 China (UK/Chinese relations) (Part 4) 1986 Jun 2 1987 Jun 19 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1426 China (Visit to UK by Chinese Prime Minister, Zhao Ziyang, June 1985: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1982 Jul 19 1985 Jun 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/406 Civil service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs) (Part 1) 1980 Feb 8 1981 Jul 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 288
PREM19/966 Civil service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs) (Part 2) 1981 Aug 19 1983 Sep 19 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 373
PREM19/2037 Civil Service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs) (Part 3) 1986 Aug 12 1988 Dec 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2600 Civil Service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs: Andrew Report on the 'Review of Government Legal Services') (Part 4) 1989 Jan 13 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1429 Civil Service (Assassination and death in service: policy on compensation for civil servants' families) 1984 May 21 1985 Nov 20 2014 Dec 30 24 Confidential 110
PREM19/678 Civil service (BBC Radio 4 series on the Civil Service; participation by Ministers and senior officials) 1981 Feb 9 1982 Jul 5 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 32

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