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
PREM19/1594 Parliament (Legislative Programme) (Part 13) 1984 Oct 1 1985 May 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2607 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM), Kuala Lumpur, October 1989) (Part 15) 1989 Oct 1 1989 Oct 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/289 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 2) 1979 Nov 15 1980 Feb 26 2010 Dec 30 Secret 110
PREM19/2102 Economic Policy (Policy towards privatisation; disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions) (Part 16) 1987 Apr 1 1988 Dec 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2746 Iraq (Iran/Iraq peace talks: future of Royal Navy deployments in the Gulf) (Part 10) 1989 Jan 25 1989 Sep 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1231 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 27) 1984 Aug 1 1984 Oct 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1513 Government Machinery (Law relating to payment of wages: cashless pay; repeal of Truck Acts) 1983 Mar 16 1985 Apr 15 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 138
PREM19/894 Prime Minister (Closure of British Aluminium Company's smelter at Invergordon; meeting with Lord Plowden; proposals for a restart; proposed new power contract) (Part 1) 1981 Dec 4 1982 Mar 19 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 193
PREM19/2436 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Brussels, June 1987: administrative arrangements) 1987 Mar 6 1987 Jul 2 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/209 Energy (Offshore supplies interest relief grants scheme; report on irregular payments) 1979 Sep 13 1980 Jun 2 2034 Jan 1 Retained (personal information)
PREM19/1919 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, USA, November 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 Jul 2 1986 Dec 8 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2615 Defence (Policing of demonstrations at military bases: activities by anti-nuclear demonstrators) (Part 2) 1986 Mar 27 1989 Mar 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1776 Government Machinery (The 70th anniversary of the Cabinet Office) 1986 Oct 21 1986 Dec 5 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1433 Cyprus (Visits to the UK by President Kyprianou: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Dec 10 1985 Jan 14 2014 Dec 30 Secret 386
PREM19/130 Vietnam (Vietnamese boat people) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 15 1979 Jul 19 2009 Dec 30 Secret 304

Pages