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
PREM19/1197 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 11) 1983 Mar 17 1984 Feb 28 2014 Jan 3 Secret 336
PREM19/2879 Trade (Commodity policy: International Tin Council litigation; International Coffee Agreement) (Part 4) 1986 Nov 5 1989 Nov 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2061 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 10) 1988 Feb 3 1988 Jul 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/961 Cabinet (Brevity in recording of Cabinet and Committee minutes; guidance on Cabinet papers) 1979 May 21 1983 Jun 17 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 9
PREM19/456 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 8) 1981 Apr 1 1981 Nov 19 2011 Dec 30 Secret 248
PREM19/2565 USA (Internal political situation: 1988 Presidential election campaign) (Part 2) 1985 Jan 3 1988 Oct 31 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/2045 Civil Service (Rules governing acceptance of business appointments by civil servants following resignation or retirement) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 24 1987 Feb 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2703 Government Machinery (Monopolies and mergers) (Part 3) 1988 Mar 7 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1831 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; United States response to Libyan terrorism) (Part 5) 1986 Apr 17 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/881 Prime Minister (Meetings with James Craigen MP to discuss closure of Bryant and May and Metal Box factories in Glasgow) 1981 Feb 27 1982 Dec 15 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 49
PREM19/1453 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 32) 1985 May 10 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 241
PREM19/376 Sport (UK participation in Moscow Olympic Games following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) (Part 3) 1980 May 9 1980 Jul 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 142
PREM19/105 Regional policy (Review of policy, creation of Enterprize Zones) 1979 May 24 1979 Nov 5 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 163
PREM19/2418 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Irina Ratushinskaya, 22 December 1986) 1986 Dec 19 1988 Jun 13 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1898 Prime Minister (Meeting with Ted Garrett MP and Nick Brown MP about Swan Hunter) 1986 Mar 20 1986 Mar 20 2016 Feb 19

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