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
PREM19/649 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 7) 1982 May 21 1982 May 31 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 92
PREM19/1284 Iraq (Internal situation; Iran-Iraq War; threat to Gulf oil supplies) (Part 4) 1984 Feb 16 1984 Aug 31 2014 Jan 3 Top Secret 338
PREM19/650 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 8) 1982 Jun 1 1982 Jun 6 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 53
PREM19/618 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 7) 1982 Apr 14 1982 Apr 17 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 273
PREM19/496 Iran (Internal situation; US and UK relations with Iran following hostage taking at American embassy in Tehran; demonstration in Grosvenor Square by Iranian students; sanctions) (Part 8) 1980 May 28 1981 Feb 17 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 302
PREM19/587 Security (Proposed BBC Panorama programme on British intelligence services) 1980 Jun 18 1981 Feb 3 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 58
PREM19/620 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 9) 1982 Apr 20 1982 Apr 22 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 258
PREM19/653 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 11) 1982 Oct 1 1982 Dec 23 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 146
PREM19/1635 Security (Prime Minister's visit to Century House (SIS headquarters), September 1984) 1984 Sep 5 1984 Oct 8 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 10
PREM19/1505 Foreign Policy (British policy in the Antarctic) 1980 Dec 5 1985 Aug 16 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 197
PREM19/818 Ireland (Security of the Northern Ireland border) 1979 Sep 6 1982 Jun 16 2012 Dec 28 3 Top Secret - Cabinet 2 16
PREM19/565 Prime Minister (Meeting with Jim Spicer MP on strategic importance of the Cape route; United Nations arms embargo against South Africa) 1981 Feb 2 1981 Mar 16 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret - Codeword 28
PREM19/498 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland; force levels) (Part 8) 1980 Aug 12 1981 Feb 25 2011 Dec 30 1 Top Secret - UK eyes A 224
PREM19/842 Middle East (Arms sales & military assistance to Middle Eastern countries) (Part 2) 1981 Apr 2 1982 Sep 15 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret - UK Eyes A 275
PREM19/973 Defence (Arms control) (Part 4) 1983 Jan 25 1983 Nov 23 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret UK Eyes A 261

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