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 descending Link to selections
PREM19/2605 Commonwealth (Development Corporation: annual reports) 1980 May 7 1989 May 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1630 Security (Hijacking of an Air Tanzania Boeing 737 by Tanzanian dissidents: surrender at Stansted Airport, 28 February 1982) 1982 Feb 28 1985 Nov 19 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1290 Ireland (Anglo-Irish economic co-operation; supply of natural gas from Irish Republic field at Kinsale to Northern Ireland) 1979 May 10 1984 Sep 5 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2435 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, and private visit to Dallas, October 1987: administrative arrangements) (Part 2) 1987 Oct 1 1987 Nov 18 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2163 European Policy (Prime Minister's meetings and correspondence with Sir James Scott-Hopkins, leader of European Democratic Group (EDG) in European Parliament: meetings with Conservative members of EDG) 1979 Jul 1 1987 Feb 11 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2802 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's term of office: Mrs Thatcher's 10th anniversary as Prime Minister) 1987 Sep 9 1989 May 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1994 Uganda (Internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Apr 17 1986 Jan 31 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1545 Ireland (Cases of Marian Price, Dolours Rea (nee Price), Pauline McLaughlin, Robert Cardwell and the Gillespie sisters: pleas for release from imprisonment) 1980 Apr 29 1985 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 6
PREM19/1986 Trade (Commodity policy; International Tin Agreement and International Tin Council; implications of difficulties in tin market for Cornish tin mines; Select Committee report on the tin crisis; renegotiation of international rubber and cocoa agreements) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Oct 29 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2665 European Policy (European Council meeting, Madrid, June 1989) (Part 32) 1989 Jun 7 1989 Jun 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1807 Industrial policy (Proposed government strategy for industry and developments in high technology) 1985 Jul 10 1986 May 9 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2381 Parliament (Procedure for the Eve of Parliament Dinner) 1979 May 9 1987 Jun 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/787 Hong Kong (Intelligence operations) 1982 Sep 1 1982 Sep 10 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2514 Security (Allegations against the Security Service) 1977 Jul 16 1987 Mar 18 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1728 Education (Student loans: review of financial support for students) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 23 1986 May 19 2014 Dec 30

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