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 descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2750 Japan (UK/Japanese relations: Nissan (UK) exports to Europe; UK-Japan 2000 Group) (Part 8) 1988 Jul 1 1989 Aug 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1233 European policy (Public attitudes to Europe) 1980 Jun 18 1984 Jun 2 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1515 Government Machinery (Advisory Council on Applied Research and Development (ACARD): report by Study Group on Exploitable Areas of Science) 1985 Oct 1 1985 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30 Restricted 272
PREM19/560 Poland (Internal situation; economic assistance to Poland) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 2 1981 Aug 12 2011 Dec 30 Secret 293
PREM19/2438 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Brussels, February 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Dec 6 1988 Feb 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/211 Energy (Burgoyne Committee report on offshore safety; transfer of responsibility) 1980 Mar 27 1980 Oct 29 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 24
PREM19/1923 Romania (UK/Romania relations; Northern Engineering Industries Ltd bid for supply of turbine generator; deportation of Stancu Papusoiu) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 27 1986 Jun 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1153 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, September 1983) (Part 3) 1983 Aug 31 1983 Oct 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 198
PREM19/2617 Defence (Deployment of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) in Europe) (Part 6) 1989 Apr 3 1989 May 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1778 Government Machinery (Departmental responsibility for national standards and international trade) 1981 Dec 7 1986 Oct 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1435 Defence (Celebration of 40th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day) 1984 Oct 2 1985 May 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 189
PREM19/132 Zambia (Policy) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Jul 23 Closed
PREM19/472 Germany (Visit to UK by Chancellor Schmidt, March 1980: Anglo-German Summit) (Part 2) 1979 Aug 13 1981 Apr 17 2012 Feb 22 Secret 229
PREM19/2347 National Health (Primary health care: White Paper 'Promoting Better Health') (Part 2) 1987 Nov 2 1988 Jul 20 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3156 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget) (Part 11) 1990 Apr 2 1990 Dec 28 2016 Dec 30

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