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 descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1323 Nationalised industries (Pay of Chairmen and Board members) (Part 2) 1981 Dec 4 1984 May 29 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2902 Agriculture (Discussion paper by Consultative Board of the Joint Consultative Organisation for Research and Development in Agriculture and Food: correspondence with Lord Rothschild; Priorities Board for Research and Development in Agriculture and Food) (Part 1) 1983 Jun 20 1990 May 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2213 Guyana (Visits to UK by Guyanese Presidents Forbes Burnham and Desmond Hoyte) 1980 Jan 11 1988 May 11 2016 Jul 21 4
PREM19/1693 Defence (Arms control) (Part 7) 1985 Aug 1 1986 Feb 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2073 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 12) 1986 Mar 14 1987 May 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2578 Defence (Rundown of Royal Dockyards at Chatham and Portsmouth: Chatham Historic Dockyard) 1982 Apr 19 1986 Jul 11 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2649 Education (Violence and discipline in schools) 1987 Nov 30 1989 Mar 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1987 Trade (Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD); review of ECGD's status; financial position) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 17 1986 May 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3080 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 27) 1990 Sep 1 1990 Sep 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2370 Nigeria (Visit to UK by President Shagari, March 1981; proposed visit by President Babangida in 1989) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 16 1988 Dec 8 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/1786 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: prison manpower; Scrutiny of the Prison Service) (Part 2) 1983 Mar 9 1986 May 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1291 Ireland (European Commission of Human Rights: case of Farrell v. UK) 1979 Nov 7 1984 Aug 1 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2010 Aerospace (European Airbus) (Part 2) 1986 Mar 18 1987 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2832 Royal Family (Ownership of the Royal Palaces: Historic Royal Palaces Agency) 1987 Nov 26 1989 Dec 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2181 France (Anglo-French relations: French disruption of UK lamb trade; Anglo-French nuclear defence cooperation; Prime Minister Michel Rocard's environmental initiative) (Part 4) 1986 Nov 3 1988 Nov 28 2017 Jan 30

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