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 ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2895 Yugoslavia (Visits to the UK by Josip Vrhovec, Foreign Secretary of Yugoslavia (June 1981); visit of his successor Mr Budimir Loncar (April 1989)) 1981 Mar 26 1989 Apr 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1737 Energy (Oil prices: prospects for world oil market; proposed Petroleum Bill; North Sea oil prices; heavy fuel oil prices; oil prices in the longer term) (Part 2) 1983 Oct 7 1986 Jan 31 2014 Dec 31
PREM19/967 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; policy on Civil Service numbers, Financial Management Initiative; response to Select Committee report on efficiency and effectiveness in Civil Service; the extension of unified grading; obligations of managers) (Part 12) 1982 Dec 2 1983 May 24 2013 Aug 1
PREM19/1905 Prime Minister (Meetings with David Clark MP and Don Dixon MP about closure of Plessey factory in South Shields) 1984 Mar 26 1986 Jun 9 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2431 Prime Minister's Gifts (Copies of invoices received for payment for gifts purchased for presentation to overseas visitors: general correspondence on gifts) (Part 3) 1984 Sep 3 1986 Sep 5 2016 Jul 21 3
PREM19/1606 Prime Minister (Radio profile of the Prime Minister by Hugo Young and Anne Sloman of BBC: discouragement of Civil Service participation) 1985 Jan 23 1985 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1336 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 11) 1983 Jul 1 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2162 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS)) (Part 2) 1982 Mar 1 1987 Jan 7 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
PREM19/2290 Kenya (Prime Minister's visit to Kenya, January 1988) (Part 1) 1987 Nov 16 1988 Apr 20 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1830 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; United States response to Libyan terrorism) (Part 4B) 1984 Apr 12 1986 Apr 16 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2738 Industrial Policy (Research and development, including European Community framework programme for research and development) (Part 7) 1989 Sep 1 1989 Dec 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2110 Economic Policy (Toronto Economic Summit: Prime Minister's Personal Representative for Economic Summits; 'Sherpa' papers) (Part 3) 1988 Jun 1 1988 Jul 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2653 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; London Conference on Saving the Ozone Layer, March 1989) (Part 7) 1989 Jan 30 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1596 (Representation of political Parties at ceremonial occasions: Cenotaph, State banquets, Battle of Britain commemoration) 1983 Jul 27 1985 Aug 21 2014 Dec 30

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