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
PREM19/1154 Zimbabwe (Internal situation; trial of air force officers on sabotage charges; sale of Hunter aircraft; British Military Advisory and Training Team (BMATT); status of Joshua Nkomo in UK) (Part 3) 1982 Dec 1 1983 Oct 28 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 308
PREM19/685 Defence (Supply of highly enriched uranium (HEU)) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 3 1982 Jun 16 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 137
PREM19/1587 New Zealand (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers Robert Muldoon and David Lange) (Part 1) 1979 May 14 1985 Mar 4 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 283
PREM19/872 Poland (Internal situation; state of emergency - martial law; possible measures to be taken against Poland and Soviet Union) (Part 6) 1982 Jan 6 1982 Jan 21 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 230
PREM19/657 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (Franks): documentation seen by PM, extracted from PREM19 files and copied to the Committee) (Part 2) 1982 Jan 7 1982 Apr 2 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 119
PREM19/471 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Schmidt in Bonn, November 1980 and November 1981: Anglo-German Summits) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 4 1981 Nov 18 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 338
PREM19/813 Iraq (Internal situation; Iran-Iraq War; defence issues in the Persian Gulf) (Part 2) 1980 Sep 30 1982 Jun 10 2012 Dec 28 1 Top Secret 317
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
PREM19/876 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
PREM19/412 Defence (Modernisation of Theatre Nuclear Forces (TNF) in Europe; proposed basing of United States Ground Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCM) in the UK) (Part 2) 1979 Dec 3 1981 Mar 10 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 106
PREM19/628 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 17) 1982 May 15 1982 May 17 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 153
PREM19/159 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 2) 1979 Dec 4 1980 Jun 9 2012 Jun 21 Top Secret 199
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

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