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
PREM19/2026 Broadcasting (Independent review of the radio frequency spectrum between 30 and 960 MHz: Merriman Report) 1982 Apr 26 1988 Jul 29 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2960 Education (Tuition fees for overseas students) 1980 Jun 4 1990 Aug 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2961 El Salvador (Internal situation: UK/El Salvador relations) (Part 1) 1981 Dec 1 1990 Jan 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/315 Nationalised Industries (Correspondence with Alan Newman Ltd about contract for conversion of liner into floating hotel: negative response from Harland and Wolff and British Shipbuilders) 1980 Jul 2 1980 Aug 4 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 14
PREM19/1644 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 7) 1985 Oct 1 1985 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 350
PREM19/1303 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 18) 1983 Nov 4 1984 Jan 13 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/908 Security (Information provided to Sunday Times by a former Security Service officer) 1982 Jan 24 1982 Jan 25 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/2406 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Edgar Bronfman, President of the World Jewish Congress) 1985 Feb 4 1988 Mar 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/575 Qatar (North West Dome gas field; pipeline problems; role of World Bank) 1980 Dec 29 1981 Jun 25 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 48
PREM19/235 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 3) 1980 May 9 1980 Aug 15 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 178
PREM19/2777 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): community care) (Part 21) 1989 May 2 1989 Jun 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1559 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 25) 1985 Jan 1 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 425
PREM19/1223 European policy (European Council meeting, Dublin, December 1984) (Part 19) 1984 Nov 28 1984 Dec 24 2014 Jan 3 Secret 209
PREM19/828 Local government (Pay of staff employed by local authorities) 1979 Jul 4 1982 Jan 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 29
PREM19/2308 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 9) 1987 Nov 13 1988 Mar 31 2016 Feb 19

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