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 descending Link to selections
PREM19/2985 European Policy (Participation by the UK in cases before the European Courts) 1988 Aug 2 1990 Dec 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2179 Foreign Policy (Summary notes on Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) Assessments) (Part 2) 1986 Sep 5 1987 Dec 18 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1298 Legal procedure (United States anti-trust investigation into allegations of price fixing against British airlines, following collapse of Laker Airways) (Part 1) 1983 Mar 1 1984 Nov 23 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/284 Ireland (Intelligence on Irish terrorists in the Republic) 1979 Oct 10 1980 Apr 15 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/2895 Yugoslavia (Visits to the UK by Josip Vrhovec, Foreign Secretary of Yugoslavia (June 1981); visit of his successor Mr Budimir Loncar (April 1989)) 1981 Mar 26 1989 Apr 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2906 Angola (Visit to the UK by Angolan Ambassador in Brussels, Fernando Van Dunem, May 1980: possible visits of President dos Santos) 1980 May 8 1990 Mar 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2172 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 7) 1986 Nov 3 1987 Nov 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2833 Royal Family (Visits to Northern Ireland by the Duke and Duchess of Kent) 1980 Mar 31 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2019 Arts and Amenities (Prime Minister's meeting with Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza to discuss possible siting in UK of the Thyssen Collection) (Part 2) 1988 Jun 2 1988 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/2521 Social Services (Social Services Committee report on perinatal mortality and morbidity; independent review of morbidity in the Bonnybridge/Denny area (near Falkirk)) 1980 Nov 14 1987 May 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2017 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 42) 1987 Sep 7 1988 Dec 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2678 Food (Food safety) (Part 2) 1989 Apr 3 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1816 Israel (Prime Minister's visit to Israel, May 1986) 1986 Mar 6 1986 Jun 16 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1473 Egypt (Visits to UK by President Mubarak by Foreign Minister Ismat Abdel Meguid: meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Dec 12 1985 Dec 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2392 Posts and Telecommunications (Future of the Post Office; Government use of Mercury Communications Ltd; privatisation of National Girobank) (Part 11) 1987 Oct 5 1988 Dec 19 2016 Jul 21 1

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