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 Beginssort descending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2371 Norway (State Visit of King Olaf V of Norway, April 1988) 1987 Nov 13 1988 Apr 13 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
PREM19/3177 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
PREM19/2290 Kenya (Prime Minister's visit to Kenya, January 1988) (Part 1) 1987 Nov 16 1988 Apr 20 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/3008 Government Machinery (Future of the Crown Agents: guidelines on procedure for tribunals of inquiry) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 18 1990 Jun 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2273 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish Summits; Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 18) 1987 Nov 18 1987 Apr 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2896 Disasters (Fire at King's Cross Underground Station, 18 November 1989) 1987 Nov 19 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2545 Soviet Union (Visits to UK by President Gorbachev) (Part 1) 1987 Nov 20 1988 Oct 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2440 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Rhodes, December 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Nov 23 1988 Dec 5 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/2832 Royal Family (Ownership of the Royal Palaces: Historic Royal Palaces Agency) 1987 Nov 26 1989 Dec 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2649 Education (Violence and discipline in schools) 1987 Nov 30 1989 Mar 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2158 European Policy (European Council meeting, Copenhagen, December 1987: briefing papers) (Part 27A) 1987 Dec 1 1987 Dec 5 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2057 Defence (Arms control) (Part 14) 1987 Dec 1 1988 Sep 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2173 Foreign Policy (East/West relations; Moscow Summit, May-June 1988, between United States President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev) (Part 8) 1987 Dec 1 1988 Nov 15 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2318 Manpower (Special employment measures: White Paper 'Training for Employment') (Part 18) 1987 Dec 1 1988 Feb 29 2016 Jul 21

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