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
PREM19/160 Defence (Nuclear release procedures; UK/US understandings on the use of nuclear weapons and bases) (Part 1) 1979 May 9 1980 Mar 25 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2506 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 7) 1987 Apr 3 1987 Jun 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1720 Economic policy (The Budget, 1985 and 1986) (Part 14) 1985 Mar 11 1986 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/452 Energy (Mossmorran ethylene cracker project: possibility of Government assistance) 1981 May 21 1981 Aug 17 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 21
PREM19/1371 Security (Irish terrorist activity in Great Britain) (Part 1A) 1979 May 10 1982 Aug 11 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2264 Iran (The Shah of Iran's wish to settle in the UK: health and future of the Shah) 1979 May 14 1988 Apr 21 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1035 Germany (Visit to UK by Helmut Kohl, leader of the opposition, January 1982) 1981 Aug 19 1982 Jan 27 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 82
PREM19/2985 European Policy (Participation by the UK in cases before the European Courts) 1988 Aug 2 1990 Dec 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2179 Foreign Policy (Summary notes on Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) Assessments) (Part 2) 1986 Sep 5 1987 Dec 18 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1638 Social Services (Reform of social security: pensions, housing benefit and supplementary benefit; child support) (Part 1) 1984 Dec 28 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 232
PREM19/707 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 11) 1981 Dec 3 1982 Jan 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 229
PREM19/371 South Africa (Internal situation) Part 1 1979 Jun 18 1980 Aug 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 235
PREM19/2895 Yugoslavia (Visits to the UK by Josip Vrhovec, Foreign Secretary of Yugoslavia (June 1981); visit of his successor Mr Budimir Loncar (April 1989)) 1981 Mar 26 1989 Apr 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1292 Ireland (Possible visit to Republic of Ireland by President Reagan; visit to USA by Irish Prime Minister) 1983 Dec 22 1984 Jan 24 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2171 Fiji (UK/Fiji relations; visits to UK by Ratu Sir Kamisese Maru, April 1981, April 1983 and March 1988) 1981 Mar 24 1988 Aug 22 2016 Jul 21

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