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
PREM19/2693 France (Franco-British Council conference, Avignon, November 1984, and subsequent correspondence) 1983 Jun 27 1989 May 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2616 Defence (Deployment of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) in Europe) (Part 5) 1984 Jul 5 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/575 Qatar (North West Dome gas field; pipeline problems; role of World Bank) 1980 Dec 29 1981 Jun 25 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 48
PREM19/1777 Government Machinery (Possible transfer of responsibility for VAT Tribunals from Customs and Excise to the Lord Chancellor: dePartmental responsibility for tribunals) 1985 Apr 1 1986 Dec 4 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/235 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 3) 1980 May 9 1980 Aug 15 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 178
PREM19/1434 Defence (Higher defence organisation: Ministerial responsibilities; Management Information System for Ministers (MINIS)) 1981 Feb 10 1982 Jul 22 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 43
PREM19/1098 Parliament (House of Commons procedure; review of working of Departmental Select Committees; Select Committee inquiry into positive vetting; Select Committee interest in records of security and intelligence agencies) (Part 5) 1981 Sep 7 1983 Mar 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 261
PREM19/2405 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Dennis Canavan MP, 17 December 1987) 1984 Sep 11 1988 Jan 11 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1861 National Health (Prime Minister's dinner for Regional Health Authority Chairmen, 25 September 1986) 1986 Jul 15 1986 Nov 3 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2476 Saudi Arabia (Visits by Crown Prince Abdullah, February 1984 and June 1988) 1982 Oct 7 1988 Jun 21 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/495 Information and publicity (Public attitudes on pay determination; presentation of Government's economic policy) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 11 1981 Nov 17 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 77
PREM19/1697 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 7) 1986 Aug 1 1986 Dec 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1354 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Ralph Howell MP, seeking support for Employment Research Centre (ERC) of University of Buckingham, July 1983) 1983 Jul 5 1984 May 3 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1016 Energy (North Sea oil prices; heavy fuel oil prices; oil prices in the longer term) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 30 1983 Jun 23 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 355
PREM19/681 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy) (Part 11) 1982 Aug 2 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 181

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