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
PREM19/2324 Middle East (Weapons development) 1987 Aug 6 1987 Aug 26 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2212 Greece (Visits to UK by Andreas Papandreou as Leader of the Opposition and as Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1980 Oct 24 1988 Nov 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2903 Agriculture (Nutrition labelling of food: additives in food; environmental labelling of consumer products) 1987 Jul 23 1990 Oct 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2078 Drugs (Drugs misuse: Visit to South America by David Mellor, Minister of State at the Home Office; cooperation between Police and Customs) (Part 3) 1985 Oct 2 1987 May 15 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2596 Broadcasting (Prime Minister's seminar on broadcasting, 21 September 1987; follow-up action) (Part 2) 1987 Sep 22 1989 Aug 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2082 Economic Policy (Correspondence from and meetings with Sir Walter Salomon, private banker) (Part 1) 1979 May 16 1987 Jan 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2726 Home Affairs (Sex discrimination) 1985 Aug 6 1989 Feb 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1845 Defence (Defence Budget) (Part 11) 1984 Apr 16 1985 May 21 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2430 Prime Minister (Visits to government departments) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 15 1982 Nov 25 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/2727 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 20) 1987 Oct 2 1989 Feb 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1846 Defence (Policing of demonstrations at military bases: activities of anti-nuclear demonstrators) (Part 1) 1983 Feb 17 1986 Mar 26 2016 Jul 21
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
PREM19/1593 Parliament (House of Commons procedure: election of Speaker; appointment of Departmental Select Committees; Government reply to Public Accounts Committee; rules on release of documents and disclosure of information to Select Committees) (Part 6) 1983 Apr 12 1985 May 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1254 Government machinery (Social Security Commissioners: transfer of responsibility from Secretary of State for Social Services to Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Scotland) 1984 Oct 11 1984 Oct 23 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1910 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Norway, September 1986: administrative arrangements) 1985 Sep 16 1986 Oct 13 2016 Feb 19

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