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 ascending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/665 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; cable systems and broadcasting policy) (Part 2) 1982 Mar 2 1982 Nov 24 2012 Dec 28 Secret 110
PREM19/664 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; cable systems and broadcasting policy) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 16 1982 Feb 25 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 143
PREM19/1678 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite: cable systems and their effect on broadcasting policy) (Part 5) 1984 May 1 1986 Feb 26 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 268
PREM19/3212 Broadcasting (Conservative Central Office media monitoring: BBC coverage of the American bombing raid on Libya, 15 April 1986) (Part 3 annex) 1986 Sep 20 1986 Oct 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2595 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy: Broadcasting Bill) (Part 9) 1989 Jul 3 1989 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2918 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy: Broadcasting Bill) (Part 11) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2594 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy) (Part 8) 1989 May 2 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2593 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy) (Part 7) 1988 Oct 3 1989 Apr 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/663 Broadcasting (BBC TV programme about handling of information by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and media during the Falklands crisis; Prime Minister’s directive that no Ministers or officials should take part) 1982 Aug 6 1982 Aug 9 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 4
PREM19/394 Broadcasting (BBC External Services) 1979 May 25 1981 Oct 22 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 203
PREM19/393 Brazil (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister, Ramiro Saraiva Guerreiro, December 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Sep 9 1981 Dec 1 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 15
PREM19/2915 Brazil (Proposed visit to UK by President of Brazil, General Joao Figueiredo; visit of the President-elect, Fernando Collor de Mello, February 1990) 1981 Nov 9 1990 May 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2591 Botswana (Visits to the UK by President Masire of Botswana to Britain) 1980 Sep 18 1989 Jun 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2022 Bermuda (UK/Bermuda relations; meetings with John Swan, Premier of Bermuda) (Part 1) 1982 May 21 1987 Jun 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/959 Belize (Future of Belize) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 1 1982 May 4 2013 Aug 1 Secret 252

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