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
PREM19/2153 European Policy (European Council meeting, London, November 1981: meetings with Social Partners - European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and European Community Employers' Association (UNICE)) 1981 Oct 29 1987 Mar 18 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2790 New Zealand (Visits to the UK of New Zealand Leaders of the Opposition: David Lange and Jim Bolger) 1984 Jan 9 1989 Aug 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1971 South Korea (UK/South Korea relations; internal situation; death of President Park; election and resignation of President Choi Kya-hah; inauguration of President Chun Doo-hwan; visit of President Chun to UK and meeting with Prime Minister, 9 April 1986) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 27 1986 Aug 21 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2558 Turkey (UK/Turkish relations) 1979 Nov 15 1987 Jul 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1978 Sport (Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, July 1986) 1985 Aug 1 1986 Dec 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2648 Education (School meals, milk and transport) 1979 Sep 13 1989 Jun 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1801 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland) (Part 10) 1985 Sep 3 1986 Mar 7 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1459 Economic policy (Policy towards privatisation: disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions) (Part 11 1985 Aug 2 1985 Mar 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2411 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Carrington, Lord Windlesham and Jacob Rothschild to discuss museum buildings, 23 October 1987) 1987 Jul 21 1987 Oct 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/359 Security (Intelligence liaison) 1980 Jul 28 1980 Aug 4 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2508 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 9) 1987 Sep 23 1987 Oct 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1379 Security (Article in ‘The Times’ by Edward Rowlands MP on the Labour Government and the Falkland Islands; disclosure of intelligence information and use of quotations from Cabinet Committee papers) 1983 Jan 17 1984 May 7 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2313 Malaysia (UK/Malaysia relations: visit of Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, July 1987) (Part 2) 1985 Aug 2 1987 Jul 24 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2988 European Policy (Setting up of European Bank of Reconstruction and Development) 1989 Dec 14 1990 Sep 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2199 Government Machinery (Special advisers; appointment procedure) (Part 3) 1984 Jan 12 1987 Jun 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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