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 classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2379 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 17) 1987 Nov 9 1988 Sep 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2380 Parliament (Parliamentary Secretary's minutes on forthcoming Parliamentary affairs) (Part 2) 1985 Jul 3 1987 Oct 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2915 Brazil (Proposed visit to UK by President of Brazil, General Joao Figueiredo; visit of the President-elect, Fernando Collor de Mello, February 1990) 1981 Nov 9 1990 May 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1299 Libya (UK/Libyan relations; threat to Libyan dissidents in UK) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 9 1984 Mar 23 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2220 Home Affairs (Demonstrations outside Embassies) 1987 Oct 16 1988 Feb 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1743 Environmental Affairs (The refurbishment of Trafalgar Square) 1986 Jun 24 1986 Jun 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2667 European Policy (European Council meeting, Madrid, June 1989) (Part 34) 1989 Jun 27 1989 Jul 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2002 Vanuatu (Visits to UK by Prime Minister Father Walter Lini: calls on the Prime Minister, November 1981, July 1983 and February 1986) 1981 Sep 16 1986 Feb 24 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2528 South Africa (Report of the Erasmus Commission on alleged irregularities in the South African Department of Information; resignation of President John Vorster; European Community Erasmus programme (student exchange programme)) 1979 Jun 6 1987 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3111 Parliament (Queen's Speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising the proceedings of the House of Commons) (Part 9) 1988 Dec 6 1990 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2344 National Health (Nurses' pay; 'Nurse Retention and Recruitment') (Part 3) 1984 May 1 1988 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1836 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 30) 1986 Jun 6 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2016 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 41) 1986 Jun 26 1987 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2856 Social Services (Uprating of social security benefits) (Part 4) 1987 May 6 1989 Sep 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2187 Government Buildings (Vacant public property) 1987 Apr 10 1987 Apr 13 2016 Jul 21

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