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
PREM19/778 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Scrutiny Programme 1982) (Part 11) 1982 Jan 11 1982 Feb 12 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 115
PREM19/443 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; arbitration arrangements; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 4) 1981 Mar 16 1981 Aug 6 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 197
PREM19/2365 NATO (NATO Summits) (Part 2) 1987 Jul 30 1988 Nov 14 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3200 Turkey (Visits to the UK by Turkish President Kenan Evran (July 1988) and his successor Turgat Ozal (September 1990)) 1988 Mar 21 1990 Sep 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2500 Security (Reform of Official Secrets Act: proposed Protection of Official Information Bill; enforcing the duty of confidentiality) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1987 Oct 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1714 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Tokyo) (Part 20) 1985 Jun 14 1986 May 6 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/22 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 5) 1979 Oct 1 1979 Oct 23 2009 Dec 30 Secret 122
PREM19/1371 Security (Irish terrorist activity in Great Britain) (Part 1A) 1979 May 10 1982 Aug 11 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
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
PREM19/698 Economic policy (International Meeting for Co-operation and Development (North/South Summit), Cancun, Mexico, October 1981; Brandt Commission) (Part 3) 1981 Sep 24 1981 Oct 20 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 128
PREM19/358 Security (Article by Duncan Campbell in New Statesman on US National Security Agency (NSA) activities at Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire) 1980 Jul 18 1980 Jul 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 11
PREM19/2258 Industrial Policy (Future of Rolls-Royce) (Part 3) 1984 Apr 2 1987 May 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2979 European Policy (Special European Council meeting in Rome, October 1990) (Part 37) 1989 Dec 18 1990 Nov 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2159 European Policy (European Council meeting, Brussels, February 1988) (Part 28) 1988 Jan 21 1988 Feb 22 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
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

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