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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1018 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 10) 1982 Apr 1 1983 Feb 8 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 300
PREM19/2607 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM), Kuala Lumpur, October 1989) (Part 15) 1989 Oct 1 1989 Oct 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/683 Defence (Purchase by Ministry of Defence of aircraft for conversion to aerial tanker and freighter roles) 1982 Dec 2 1982 Dec 14 2012 Dec 28 Secret 27
PREM19/2102 Economic Policy (Policy towards privatisation; disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions) (Part 16) 1987 Apr 1 1988 Dec 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/345 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 15) 1980 Feb 16 1980 Feb 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 221
PREM19/3002 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 5) 1990 Sep 5 1990 Nov 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2243 India (UK/Indian relations: Rihand power station) (Part 5) 1985 Jun 3 1987 May 21 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1677 Broadcasting (Television licence fees: report by Professor Alan Peacock's Committee on Financing the BBC; BBC accounts) (Part 2) 1984 Apr 4 1986 Jun 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 137
PREM19/2436 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Brussels, June 1987: administrative arrangements) 1987 Mar 6 1987 Jul 2 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/939 United Nations (Election of United Nations Secretary-General) 1981 May 5 1982 Feb 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 106
PREM19/606 Zimbabwe (Internal situation; aid; relations with South Africa) 1980 Apr 17 1981 Nov 2 2011 Dec 30 Secret 258
PREM19/266 Industrial policy (Prime Minister’s meetings with Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on economic strategy) (Part 1) 1979 May 29 1980 Sep 15 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 235
PREM19/2865 South Africa (Visits to the UK by the South African Foreign Minister, Pik Botha) 1979 Oct 16 1989 Mar 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2047 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, October 1987) (Part 12) 1987 Oct 9 1987 Oct 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1591 Overseas Aid (Overseas aid policy: International Development Association (IDA)) (Part 4) 1984 Jan 4 1985 Jun 25 2014 Dec 30

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