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
PREM19/1319 National health (Nurses pay: review body for nurses and related groups) (Part 2) 1982 Feb 1 1984 Apr 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1666 Aerospace (Future and structure of British Airways: engines for British Airways Boeing 747-400s; UK/US air services; UK/Canada air services) (Part 5) 1986 Jan 1 1986 Dec 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1536 (UK/Indian relations: situation in Punjab; activities of Sikh extremists; proposed visit to UK by Rajiv Gandhi in June 1985) (Part 4) 1983 Mar 4 1985 May 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1980 Sri Lanka (Visits to UK by Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa (July 1979 - May 1986) and President Jayewardine (June 1984)) (Part 1. Note: With photograph) 1979 May 5 1986 May 23 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2816 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris to attend the Economic Summit, July 1989: administrative arrangements) 1988 May 31 1989 Aug 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2172 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 7) 1986 Nov 3 1987 Nov 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2958 Education (Student loans) (Part 3) 1990 Jan 10 1990 Apr 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2577 Prime Minister (Personal correspondence with Princess Margaret) 1980 Jan 9 1980 Feb 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1914 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Federal Republic of Germany, September 1986: Anglo-German Summit, Bonn, and visit to British Forces Germany; administrative arrangements) 1986 Jan 20 1986 Sep 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2438 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Brussels, February 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Dec 6 1988 Feb 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1288 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 17B) 1984 Oct 6 1984 Oct 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3001 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 4) 1990 Apr 2 1990 Aug 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2298 Local Government (Correspondence from Sir John Sainsbury on planning controls: general planning inquiries; land for housing and planning policy) (Part 4) 1987 Jan 7 1988 Jan 21 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1858 National Health (Mental health legislation: draft White Paper; release of dangerous psychopaths) 1981 Oct 26 1986 Apr 22 2015 Dec 30 1
PREM19/2751 Japan (Lunches at Chequers in honour of Prince Naruhito (1984) and Prince Fumihito (1989)) 1983 Dec 20 1989 Apr 24 2016 Dec 30

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