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
PREM19/2261 Information and Publicity (Relations between the Civil Service and the press; role of Chief Press Secretary, No 10 Downing Street) 1979 Dec 7 1988 Oct 7 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1391 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 3) 1982 Dec 9 1984 Sep 30 2014 Jan 3 1
PREM19/633 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 22) 1982 Jun 1 1982 Jun 5 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 237
PREM19/143 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 1) 1979 May 23 1980 Nov 6 2010 Dec 30 1 Confidential 248
PREM19/824 Lebanon (Internal situation; Israeli/Lebanese hostilities; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 16 1982 Jul 10 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 345
PREM19/840 Memorials (Dedication of Defenders' Memorial in Westminster Abbey, March 1982; Dame Ruth King's initiative) 1981 Aug 21 1982 Mar 27 2012 Dec 28 1 Confidential 53
PREM19/504 Ireland (Hunger strike at the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland; the 'Dirty Protest') (Part 3) 1981 Apr 22 1981 May 20 2011 Dec 30 1 Secret 267
PREM19/2351 National Health (Spread of meningococcal meningitis) 1986 Mar 26 1987 Apr 3 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1375 Security (Custody contacts of persons accused of security offences, following arrest of Security Service officer Michael Bettaney) 1984 May 1 1984 Jul 13 2014 Jan 3 1
PREM19/1392 South Africa (Visit to UK by Prime Minister, P.W. Botha, June 1984; meeting with Prime Minister) 1984 Apr 13 1984 Jul 19 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 435
PREM19/128 Vatican (Possible papal visit to Ireland, north & south) 1979 Jul 10 1979 Oct 1 2009 Dec 30 1 Confidential 67
PREM19/634 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 23) 1982 Jun 6 1982 Jun 11 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 271
PREM19/619 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 8) 1982 Apr 18 1982 Apr 19 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 174
PREM19/811 Industrial policy (Financial difficulties of Fodens Ltd, Sandbach: local employment consequences) 1979 Jul 10 1982 Feb 10 2012 Dec 28 1 Unclassified 57
PREM19/1586 Netherlands (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers Dries van Agt and Ruud Lubbers: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 23 1985 Feb 15 2014 Dec 30 1 Confidential 305

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