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 descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2878 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy) (Part 5) 1987 Nov 2 1990 Dec 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1982 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy; Prime Minister's 'Better Made in Britain' seminar, 25 February 1986) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 8 1986 Jan 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1983 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy; Prime Minister's 'Better Made in Britain' seminar, 25 February 1986) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 3 1986 Mar 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1145 Trade (Intellectual property rights and innovation) 1982 Jul 19 1983 Dec 22 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 228
PREM19/1988 Trade (Inward investment; review of overseas promotion) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 17 1986 Jul 17 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2551 Trade (Multilateral trade negotiations) 1979 May 17 1987 Nov 19 2016-07-2016
PREM19/2553 Trade (Proposed guidance on open-ended contracts: non-competitive government contracts; political (non-commercial) clauses in local authority contracts) 1980 May 2 1987 Jun 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2881 Trade (Trade in textiles and clothes: Multi-Fibre Agreement (MFA)) (Part 3) 1982 May 18 1989 Nov 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/928 Trade (UK trading policies; non-tariff barriers; effects on UK industry of open trading system; General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Ministerial meeting) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 4 1982 Oct 28 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 235
PREM19/3191 Trade (UK's international trade policies: analysis of UK imports; General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Uruguay Round) (Part 7) 1989 Oct 6 1990 Nov 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2552 Trade (UK's international trade policies: non-tariff barriers and restraints on imports; consideration of export problems; recycling of OPEC surpluses) (Part 5) 1985 Jul 1 1987 Jan 26 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/379 Trade (United States synthetic fibre exports to UK; problems of the UK clothing and textile industry) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 12 1980 Jun 27 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 165
PREM19/378 Trade (Visit by David Howell, Secretary of State for Energy, to Mexico and Venezuela, September 1980; proposed seminar) 1980 Oct 24 1980 Dec 9 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 21
PREM19/936 Transport (Armitage Report on Lorries, People and the Environment; draft White Paper) (Part 1) 1979 May 15 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 197
PREM19/2555 Transport (Autoguide route guidance system) 1988 Feb 5 1988 Feb 22 2016 Jul 21

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