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 ascending Link to selections
PREM19/2283 Japan (Visits of Japanese CBI (Keidanren) to the UK, 1981 and 1986) 1981 Aug 24 1986 Oct 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2989 European Policy (UK air transport policy in Europe) 1979 Nov 8 1990 May 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2211 Greece (UK/Greek relations) (Part 1) 1980 May 1 1987 Mar 31 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1301 Libya (Anglo-Libyan relations; aftermath of shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau, 17 April 1984; severance of diplomatic relations) (Part 2B) 1984 Apr 24 1984 Apr 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/287 Legal Procedure (Proposed amendment to Act of Settlement 1701) 1980 Jul 8 1980 Oct 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2934 Defence (War widows' pensions) 1979 Nov 1 1990 Apr 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2177 Foreign Policy (Bilateral meetings with the Foreign Secretary) (Part 1) 1983 Sep 5 1987 Sep 28 2016 Jul 21 4
PREM19/2836 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget) (Part 9) 1989 Jul 4 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2032 Cambodia (Internal situation: derecognition of Pol Pot regime; Prince Sihanouk) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 16 1988 Nov 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1556 Japan (Prime Minister's visit to Japan, September 1982) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 20 1985 Apr 16 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2523 Social Services (Pensions: portable pensions; Inquiry into Provision for Retirement; consultation document on personal pensions) 1983 Sep 30 1988 Feb 19 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2020 Arts and Amenities (Policy towards the arts; private sponsorship of the arts) (Part 2) 1983 Dec 2 1987 Mar 13 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2681 Foreign Policy (Allegations concerning war criminals: War Crimes Inquiry) (Part 2) 1989 Jun 30 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2400 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with a delegation of Muslim religious leaders, 28 April 1988) 1988 Jan 28 1988 Jun 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1852 Ministers (Market and Opinion Research International Ltd (MORI): requests for Geoffrey Finsberg MP and Lord Young to participate in surveys on a range of issues affecting British industry) 1980 Jun 2 1986 Jul 16 2016 Feb 19

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