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
PREM19/2036 China (UK/Chinese relations) (Part 4) 1986 Jun 2 1987 Jun 19 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2544 Soviet Union (Visit to UK by Dr Anatoly Koryagin: meeting with Prime Minister; abuse of psychiatry in USSR) 1987 Sep 29 1987 Nov 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2025 Broadcasting (Recording and rental of audio and video copyright material; blank tape levy) 1985 Feb 13 1987 Aug 25 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2691 France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand) (Part 6) 1986 Dec 1 1989 Aug 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1822 Jordan (UK/Jordanian relations: West Bank study paper by Crown Prince Hassan) (Part 1) 1979 Dec 28 1986 Feb 25 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/132 Zambia (Policy) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Jul 23 Closed
PREM19/2404 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Archbishop Worlock and Bishop David Sheppard of Liverpool) 1986 Nov 17 1987 Sep 24 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1859 National Health (Study of leukaemia in Scotland) 1986 Jun 9 1986 Jun 9 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2538 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 6) 1986 Jun 2 1987 Jan 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1743 Environmental Affairs (The refurbishment of Trafalgar Square) 1986 Jun 24 1986 Jun 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1400 Transport (British Rail: review of main line electrification; Hastings-Tonbridge rail service) 1980 Nov 13 1984 Jul 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2306 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 7) 1987 Jul 1 1987 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3027 Home Affairs (Football hooliganism; Football Spectators Bill; Taylor Report on the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster) (Part 8) 1989 Feb 2 1990 Jan 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2278 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 24) 1988 Apr 1 1988 Aug 31 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1320 National health (Seminar on health and social security, September 1983; Social Security Policy Reviews) (Part 1) 1983 Jul 26 1984 Jun 22 2014 Jan 3

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