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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/279 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland; Northern Ireland Conference, Belfast) (Part 5) 1979 Dec 5 1980 Mar 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 198
PREM19/2561 United Nations (Indian initiative for Heads of State or Government to attend a Summit meeting at the United Nations General Assembly, September 1983; President Reagan's invitation to Western leaders to attend meeting in New York, September 1988) 1983 Apr 3 1988 Sep 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/647 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 5) 1982 May 5 1982 May 14 2012 Dec 28 Secret 138
PREM19/1316 Ministers (Ministers’ outside interests; position of Ministers on appointment to office; membership at Lloyds; Questions of Procedure for Ministers) (Part 1) 1979 May 9 1984 Sep 17 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2182 France (Prime Minister's visits to France, November 1986 and March and July 1987) (Part 5) 1986 Oct 21 1987 Oct 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2857 Social Services (Long-term strategy for social security operations) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 24 1989 Jun 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1880 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 14) 1985 Jun 3 1986 Apr 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1520 Home Affairs (Review of the law on public order: Green Paper) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 26 1985 Jan 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 323
PREM19/199 Education (Future of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA)) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 20 1980 Nov 28 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 36
PREM19/902 Science and Technology (Government procurement of computers and related equipment; Prime Minister’s reception for representatives of the computer industry) 1981 Mar 11 1982 Feb 15 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 131
PREM19/566 Prime Minister (Meeting with David Watkins MP to discuss closure of Consett steelworks) 1981 Feb 12 1981 Mar 13 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 20
PREM19/1236 Foreign policy (Meeting of South Pacific Forum; correspondence with Bob Hawke, Prime Minister of Australia, on a single regional organisation in South Pacific) 1980 Jul 17 1984 Apr 24 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2025 Broadcasting (Recording and rental of audio and video copyright material; blank tape levy) 1985 Feb 13 1987 Aug 25 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2691 France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand) (Part 6) 1986 Dec 1 1989 Aug 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/119 Security (Robin Cook's Bill on the Security Service) 1979 Nov 29 1979 Dec 17 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 17

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