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 ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1212 Education (Future of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA)) (Part 3) 1980 Dec 5 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 212
PREM19/621 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 10) 1982 Apr 23 1982 Apr 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 300
PREM19/962 China (Prime Minister's visit to China, Hong Kong & Japan, September 1982: policy) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 13 1983 Feb 24 2013 Aug 1 Secret 186
PREM19/169 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 12) 1980 Nov 11 1980 Nov 24 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/1651 Transport (London Underground dispute, June 1979: reactivation of Civil Contingencies Unit; arbitration; London Transport pay; threatened London Underground and bus strikes) 1979 May 31 1985 May 20 2014 Dec 30 Secret 122
PREM19/1057 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 8) 1983 Sep 1 1983 Sep 30 2013 Aug 1 6 Secret 304
PREM19/588 Security (Sir Peter Hayman: allegations against former public official of unnatural sexual proclivities; security aspects) 1980 Oct 27 1981 Mar 20 2015 Jan 30 Secret 38
PREM19/262 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 3 1980 Feb 14 2010 Dec 30 Secret 232
PREM19/1619 Science and Technology (Annual Review of Government-funded Research and Development: maintaining the strength of the science base) (Part 2) 1984 Aug 2 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 359
PREM19/1152 USA (United States foreign policy; nuclear non-proliferation) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 21 1983 Dec 22 2013 Aug 1 Secret 339
PREM19/683 Defence (Purchase by Ministry of Defence of aircraft for conversion to aerial tanker and freighter roles) 1982 Dec 2 1982 Dec 14 2012 Dec 28 Secret 27
PREM19/15 Defence (Modernisation of Theatre Nuclear Forces)(Part 1) 1979 May 16 1979 Nov 29 2009-12-30 Secret 226
PREM19/560 Poland (Internal situation; economic assistance to Poland) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 2 1981 Aug 12 2011 Dec 30 Secret 293
PREM19/776 Government machinery (Civil Contingencies Unit reports; emergency powers legislation; withstanding strikes in key sectors of the economy) (Part 2) 1981 Mar 2 1982 Sep 29 2012 Dec 28 Secret 86
PREM19/108 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 3) 1979 Jul 4 1979 Jul 30 2009 Dec 30 1 Secret 254

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