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 releasesort descending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2368 Nigeria (Attempted abduction of former Minister Umani Dikko) 1984 Jul 5 1987 Jun 24 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2241 Immigration (Immigration Rules) (Part 3) 1986 Apr 7 1987 Oct 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1387 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 10 1984 Feb 9 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2537 Soviet Union (Arrest and exile to Gorky of Andrei Sakharov and his wife Yelena Bonner: Prime Minister's meetings with Mrs Bonner and other family members) 1980 Jan 23 1987 Jan 5 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2497 Security (Correspondence with Members of Parliament) 1988 Apr 12 1988 Apr 22 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2369 Nigeria (Prime Minister's visit to Nigeria, January 1987) 1987 Dec 10 1988 Apr 20 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2243 India (UK/Indian relations: Rihand power station) (Part 5) 1985 Jun 3 1987 May 21 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1388 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing) (Part 2) 1984 Feb 6 1984 Feb 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2538 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 6) 1986 Jun 2 1987 Jan 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1260 Home affairs (Review of police conduct of Yorkshire Ripper (Peter Sutcliffe) case by HM Inspector of Constabulary, Lawrence Byford; transfer of Peter Sutcliffe to Broadmoor) 1980 Nov 25 1984 Mar 26 Retained Retained
PREM19/1013 Elections (Procedure for General Elections: actions to be taken by Prime Minister's Office; allocation of official residences; questions of procedure for Ministers; Ministerial travel; Queen's speech on opening of Parliament) 1970 Aug 4 1982 Jul 19 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2498 Security (Threat of unauthorised disclosure by former employee of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)) 1987 Feb 6 1987 Mar 20 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2383 Parliament (Queen's Speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament: televising proceedings of the House of Commons; establishment of Select Committee) (Part 8) 1987 Oct 16 1988 Nov 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2013 Afghanistan (Internal situation) (Part 7) 1986 May 8 1988 Mar 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2265 Iraq (Internal situation: Iran-Iraq War) (Part 5) 1984 Sep 1 1987 Jul 19 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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