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
PREM19/2858 Somalia (Visit to the UK by Major-General Mohamed Siad Barre, President of Somalia (June 1988); visit by Mohamed Ali Samatar, Prime Minister of Somalia (January 1989)) 1982 Mar 4 1989 Apr 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2507 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 8) 1987 Jul 2 1987 Sep 22 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2550 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy) (Part 4) 1986 Aug 18 1987 Oct 29 2016-07-2016
PREM19/1721 Economic policy (The 1986 Budget) (Part 15) 1986 Feb 5 1986 Apr 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2026 Broadcasting (Independent review of the radio frequency spectrum between 30 and 960 MHz: Merriman Report) 1982 Apr 26 1988 Jul 29 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1378 Security (Leakage of NATO Alliance documents to Soviet Union by official in Belgian Foreign Ministry) 1984 Aug 3 1984 Aug 6 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2693 France (Franco-British Council conference, Avignon, November 1984, and subsequent correspondence) 1983 Jun 27 1989 May 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1257 Government machinery (Transfer of responsibility for Office of the Lord Lyon from Treasury to Secretary of State for Scotland) 1984 Dec 12 1984 Dec 17 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2188 Government Buildings (Refurbishing of Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms) (Part 1) 1980 Jun 1 1988 Aug 12 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2405 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Dennis Canavan MP, 17 December 1987) 1984 Sep 11 1988 Jan 11 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1861 National Health (Prime Minister's dinner for Regional Health Authority Chairmen, 25 September 1986) 1986 Jul 15 1986 Nov 3 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2019 Arts and Amenities (Prime Minister's meeting with Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza to discuss possible siting in UK of the Thyssen Collection) (Part 2) 1988 Jun 2 1988 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/2307 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 8) 1987 Aug 3 1987 Nov 12 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3028 Home Affairs (The campaign against and the use of chemical herbicides, especially 2,4,5-T: pesticide policy) 1980 Jun 1 1990 Apr 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1816 Israel (Prime Minister's visit to Israel, May 1986) 1986 Mar 6 1986 Jun 16 2014 Dec 30

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