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
PREM19/2135 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power; Layfield report on new Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR), Sizewell 'B'; doctrine of collective responsibility aspect of Energy Secretary's decision to accept Layfield recommendation; study by Advisory Council on Applied Research and Development (ACARD) on UK future nuclear reactor programme) (Part 11) 1987 Feb 4 1987 Nov 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2506 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 7) 1987 Apr 3 1987 Jun 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2548 Syria (Internal situation: military capability; UK/Syrian relations) 1980 Mar 14 1988 Oct 25 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2136 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power; revision of report by Advisory Council on Science and Technology (ACOST) on industrial impact of Sizewell 'B' decision; extension of Joint European Torus (JET) project on nuclear fusion; disposal of UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) shareholding in National Nuclear Corporation; fast reactor programme) (Part 12) 1987 Dec 1 1988 May 24 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2507 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 8) 1987 Jul 2 1987 Sep 22 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2549 Syria (Internal situation: UK/Syrian relations; Syrian involvement in the Hindawi affair and other terrorist activities; diplomatic and commercial measures by UK, USA, Canada, and European Community states) 1979 May 7 1987 Jul 27 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/694 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 4) 1981 Nov 17 1982 Feb 26 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 154
PREM19/875 Posts and telecommunications (Future of Post Office: liberalisation of telecommunications monopoly; British Telecom's investment programme; BT and postal tariff increases) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 4 1982 Mar 16 2013 Sep 24 Top Secret 282
PREM19/1063 Industrial policy (Future of Times newspapers: sale by Thomson Organisation; purchase by Rupert Murdoch's News International) 1979 Oct 16 1983 Jul 18 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 111
PREM19/695 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 5) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Sep 9 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 126
PREM19/876 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office: telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; British Telecom's financial position and prices; System X) (Part 4) 1982 Mar 22 1982 Jul 19 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 159
PREM19/1033 Foreign policy (East/West relations; United States foreign policy) (Part 3) 1982 Oct 1 1983 Oct 31 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 416
PREM19/909 Soviet Union (Soviet General Staff Command exercise) 1982 Jun 24 1982 Jul 15 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 6
PREM19/791 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 3) 1982 Oct 6 1982 Nov 6 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 228
PREM19/972 Defence (Briefing on military capabilities of Warsaw Pact) 1979 May 21 1983 Jan 19 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 25

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