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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1889 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's weekly diary meeting) 1979 May 21 1986 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1994 Uganda (Internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Apr 17 1986 Jan 31 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1385 Security (Case of Rhona Ritchie, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) official, convicted of passing classified documents to Egyptian diplomat in Tel Aviv; Security Commission investigation) 1982 Mar 17 1983 Jul 26 2014 Jan 3 1
PREM19/2290 Kenya (Prime Minister's visit to Kenya, January 1988) (Part 1) 1987 Nov 16 1988 Apr 20 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/633 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 22) 1982 Jun 1 1982 Jun 5 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 237
PREM19/2042 Civil Service (Introduction of new technology: Project Gemstione, electronic mail for Private Offices) (Part 2) 1986 Jul 17 1988 Mar 16 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/212 Defence (Arms control) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 15 2010 Dec 30 1 Top Secret 199
PREM19/1871 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy; British Shipbuilders) (Part 10) 1986 May 1 1986 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21 1
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
PREM19/634 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 23) 1982 Jun 6 1982 Jun 11 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 271
PREM19/2407 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Gerry Steinberg MP, 23 February 1988) 1987 Dec 14 1988 Mar 18 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1864 National Health (Doctors' and dentists' pay; reports of Review Body) (Part 3) 1981 May 15 1986 May 29 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2541 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 9) 1987 Nov 2 1987 Dec 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1746 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 13) 1985 Jan 7 1986 Mar 19 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1403 USA (Visit to UK by Donald Rumsfeld, President Reagan’s special Middle East envoy: meeting with Prime Minister) 1984 Jan 16 1984 Jan 20 2014 Jan 3

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