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
PREM19/2055 Defence (Arms control) (Part 12) 1987 May 1 1987 Jun 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2722 Home Affairs (Football hooliganism; Football Spectators Bill) (Part 7) 1988 Jul 5 1989 Jan 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1842 Memoirs (James Callaghan's memoirs) 1986 Dec 9 1986 Dec 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1500 Foreign Policy (Briefing for officials for Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) 1985 Apr 4 1985 Apr 13 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1164 Aerospace (Possible merger between British Aerospace and Thorn EMI or General Electric Company (GEC)) 1984 May 2 1984 Jul 11 2014 Jan 3 Secret 42
PREM19/827 Legal procedure (Law on homosexual offences in Northern Ireland; judgement of European Court of Human Rights) 1980 May 29 1982 Mar 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 42
PREM19/491 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 7) 1980 Dec 1 1981 Oct 2 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 291
PREM19/2424 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Sir Peter Emery MP, 22 January 1987) 1986 Jul 23 1987 Jan 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1904 Prime Minister (Meetings with the National Pensioners Conventions, February 1982 to March 1986) (part 1) 1979 May 30 1986 Mar 27 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2575 Zambia (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1987 Aug 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1763 Germany (Internal situation) (Part 2) 1982 Oct 1 1986 May 30
PREM19/1420 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 39) 1984 Nov 1 1985 Apr 25 2014 Dec 30 Secret 382
PREM19/1084 Local government (Industrial action in water industry; contingency planning; settlement following Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) inquiry; threat of industrial action in fire service over pensions) (Part 3) 1983 Feb 9 1983 Apr 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 228
PREM19/747 European policy (Elections of President of European Parliament; candidacies) 1979 Jun 11 1982 Jan 21 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 12
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

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