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
PREM19/2046 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, October 1987) (Part 11) 1986 Sep 4 1987 Oct 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1562 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 28) 1985 Aug 1 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 404
PREM19/1226 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 23A) 1984 Feb 1 1984 Mar 1 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/89 Legal procedure (Authority to order drafting of Bills) 1979 May 17 1979 May 18 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 5
PREM19/555 Parliament (Legislative programme, 1980-1981 and 1981-1982) (Part 6) 1980 Oct 28 1981 Mar 31 2011 Dec 30 Secret 196
PREM19/215 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 5 1980 Mar 10 2010 Dec 30 Secret 116
PREM19/2696 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: question of German reunification) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 1 1989 Dec 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1824 Lebanon (United States concerns) 1983 Sep 15 1986 Apr 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1481 European Policy (European Strategic Research Programme in Information Technology (ESPRIT)) 1983 Nov 22 1984 Mar 19 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 76
PREM19/2389 Police (Police policy) (Part 2) 1986 Apr 8 1988 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1146 Transport (Railway policy) (Part 6) 1982 Oct 7 1983 Apr 25 2013 Aug 1 Secret 184
PREM19/1059 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 10) 1983 Nov 1 1983 Dec 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 412
PREM19/722 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 5) 1981 Nov 3 1982 Jul 23 2012 Dec 28 Secret 121
PREM19/1862 National Health (Disposal of site of St George's Hospital, Hyde Park Corner: negotiations with Grosvenor Estate for sale of Crown portion) 1982 Jan 21 1986 Apr 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2298 Local Government (Correspondence from Sir John Sainsbury on planning controls: general planning inquiries; land for housing and planning policy) (Part 4) 1987 Jan 7 1988 Jan 21 2016 Jul 21

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