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
PREM19/2690 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Australia, Bahrain, Oman, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Dubai, August 1988: policy. Note: With photograph) 1988 Aug 1 1989 May 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2030 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; subscription television; independent television producers; external television broadcasting; broadcasting legislation) (Part 5) 1987 Sep 8 1987 Dec 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2562 United Nations (Special Session on Disarmament, June 1988) (Part 2) 1988 Feb 5 1988 Feb 28 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/1341 Peru (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Dr Manuel Ulloa Elias, January 1981; possible visit by Prime Minister Dr Schwalb) 1980 Dec 1 1984 Jun 18 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1690 Defence (Public opinion and public debate on nuclear weapons issues) 1982 Oct 18 1986 May 12 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3176 Soviet Union (Prime Minister's visit to the Soviet Union, June 1990: policy) (Part 4) 1990 Jun 1 1990 Jul 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2357 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 12) 1987 Feb 12 1987 Sep 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3075 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 22) 1990 Aug 7 1990 Aug 12 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/2883 Trade (Consumer safety) 1984 Feb 6 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1783 Home Affairs (Civil disorder: the Handsworth and Tottenham riots) (Part 3) 1985 Oct 4 1986 Mar 20 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2635 Economic Policy (Investigation powers under the Companies and Financial Services Acts: disclosure of interests in shares; Tokyo Stock Exchange) (Part 5) 1987 Jun 15 1989 Jan 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1966 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 9) 1986 Mar 3 1986 May 30 2016 Feb 19 2
PREM19/2462 Regional Policy (Inner Cities Initiative: report by Eric Sorensen; Phoenix initiative; development of Canary Wharf and extension of Docklands Light Railway) (Part 10) 1987 May 1 1987 Sep 22 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2319 Manpower (Special employment measures: reducing unemployment below two million; future of the Training Commission) (Part 19) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Oct 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1312 Manpower (Strategy for industry and employment; reducing the burden of regulation on the economy; Chequers seminar on employment - follow-up work) (Part 2) 1984 Apr 2 1984 May 29 2014 Jan 3

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