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 Pages Link to selectionssort descending
PREM19/1660 USA (Prime Minister's visit to New York and the United Nations, October 1985) (Part 5) 1985 Apr 15 1985 Oct 15 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 398
PREM19/1661 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, July 1985) 1985 Jul 8 1985 Jul 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 278
PREM19/1667 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 2) 1985 Dec 28 1986 Jan 10 2016 Feb 19 Secret 413
PREM19/1675 Australia (Visits of Australian Prime Ministers to London: Malcolm Fraser (February 1980 and July 1981) and Robert Hawke (June 1983 and April 1986); meetings with the Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 21 1986 Apr 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1681 Canada (Prime Minister's Visit to Canada, July 1986: Vancouver Transportation Exposition 1986 (Expo 86)) 1981 Jul 8 1986 Sep 12 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1701 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 34) 1985 Dec 5 1986 May 5 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 306
PREM19/1702 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 35) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1703 Economic policy (Policy towards privatisation: disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions; flotation of Royal Ordnance PLC; Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) picketing at DHSS Huyton Local Office over privatised cleaning contract) (Part 13) 1985 Dec 2 1986 Jun 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1704 Economic policy (Policy towards privatisation: disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions; flotation of Royal Ordnance PLC; Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) picketing at DHSS Huyton Local Office over privatised cleaning contract) (Part 14) 1986 Jul 9 1986 Oct 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1705 Economic policy (Economic strategy: pay and prices; economic statistics) (Part 26) 1984 Mar 15 1985 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 Secret 385
PREM19/1706 Economic policy (International finance: indebtedness and effect on Western banking system; British exposure) (Part 5) 1985 Jan 1 1986 Feb 5 2014 Dec 30 Secret 387
PREM19/1707 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 15) 1985 Dec 2 1986 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 448
PREM19/1708 Economic policy (Reform of taxation policy: preparation of Green Paper on personal taxation; partnership taxation) (Part 15) 1984 Jan 10 1986 Jan 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 203
PREM19/1709 Economic policy (Reform of personal taxation: draft Green Paper by Chancellor of the Exchequer; 'historic papers' on Sir Geoffrey Howe's proposals in 1982-1983 for family taxation reform) 1985 Sep 27 1985 Dec 3 2014 Dec 30 Secret 236
PREM19/1717 Economic policy (Financial Services Bill: the Stock Exchange; commercial fraud; Roskill Report on Fraud Trials) (Part 2) 1985 Oct 1 1986 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 268

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