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? File classification Pagessort ascending Link to selections
PREM19/2054 Defence (Arms control) (Part 11) 1987 Mar 11 1987 Apr 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2721 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: industrial action by the Prison Officers Association; private sector involvement in the remand system) (Part 4) 1987 Nov 2 1989 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1841 Manpower (Rayner Scrutiny of payment of benefits to the unemployed people: study by Department of Employment and Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS)) (Part 1) 1980 Oct 16 1982 May 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1499 Foreign Policy (Briefing for Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) 1985 Apr 4 1985 Apr 13 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2423 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Sir Fergus Montgomery MP and Tom Sackville MP to discuss Manchester Airport, 21 April 1988) 1988 Mar 15 1988 Apr 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1903 Prime Minister (Meeting with Warren Hawksley MP to discuss procurement of Thyssen TM170 armoured personnel carriers for Berlin) 1986 Jan 6 1986 Feb 4 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2573 Yugoslavia (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 17 1988 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1762 France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand) (Part 5) 1985 Oct 16 1986 Nov 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2330 Morocco (Visits to UK by Moroccan Foreign Minister M'hamed Boucetta and his successor Dr Filali) 1981 Aug 20 1988 Sep 16 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/3073 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 20) 1989 Dec 3 1990 Aug 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2393 Posts and Telecommunications (Study by the Official Group on Telecommunications on withstanding a telecommunications strike; industrial action at British Telecom (BT)) 1982 Jan 11 1987 Mar 3 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1682 China (Sino-British relations) (Part 3) 1985 Jun 1 1986 Jun 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1339 Parliament (House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology: scientific advice to government; engineering research and development) 1979 Nov 12 1984 Oct 16 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2221 Home Affairs (Government grants to National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux) 1983 Apr 12 1988 Nov 15 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2937 Defence (Prime Ministers seminar on defence questions, Chequers, 30 September 1989) 1989 Jul 4 1990 Jan 8 2016 Dec 30

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