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
PREM19/1226 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 23A) 1984 Feb 1 1984 Mar 1 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/889 Prime Minister (Meeting with John Opel, President of International Business Machines (IBM), concerning investment in the UK) 1982 May 21 1982 Aug 9 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 28
PREM19/553 Overseas aid (Renegotiation of Lome Convention; closure of Tate and Lyle refinery in Liverpool; effect on African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) sugar suppliers) (Part 1) 1979 May 31 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 252
PREM19/2551 Trade (Multilateral trade negotiations) 1979 May 17 1987 Nov 19 2016-07-2016
PREM19/2027 Broadcasting (Prime Minister's seminar on broadcasting, 21 September 1987) (Part 1) 1987 Mar 5 1987 Sep 21 2016 Feb 19
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
PREM19/1146 Transport (Railway policy) (Part 6) 1982 Oct 7 1983 Apr 25 2013 Aug 1 Secret 184
PREM19/134 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 1) 1979 Dec 17 1980 Jan 6 2010 Dec 30 Secret 280
PREM19/810 Industrial policy (Impact of government on industry; Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Trenchard, Minister of State, Department of Industry) 1979 Jul 6 1982 Nov 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 72
PREM19/474 Government buildings (Expenditure on government accommodation) 1979 Jun 20 1981 Apr 2 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 18
PREM19/2406 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Edgar Bronfman, President of the World Jewish Congress) 1985 Feb 4 1988 Mar 8 2016 Jul 21
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
PREM19/2540 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 8) 1987 May 5 1987 Oct 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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