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
PREM19/2460 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to USA and Jamaica, July 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Jun 12 1987 Sep 4 2016 Jul 21 7
PREM19/1126 Saudi Arabia (Saudi/UK relations; internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 9 1983 Dec 23 2013 Aug 1 7 Secret 342
PREM19/2075 Disasters (Sinking of Townsend Thoresen ferry Herald of Free Enterprise at Zeebrugge, 6 March 1987) 1987 Mar 6 1988 Feb 9 2016 Jul 21 6
PREM19/1967 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 10. Orderable at item level) 1986 Jun 1 1986 Jun 30 2016 Feb 19 6
PREM19/638 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 27) 1982 Jun 27 1982 Jul 20 2012 Dec 28 6 Secret 251
PREM19/1057 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 8) 1983 Sep 1 1983 Sep 30 2013 Aug 1 6 Secret 304
PREM19/760 France (Anglo-French relations; Prime Minister's meetings with President Giscard d'Estaing and President Mitterrand) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 15 1982 Mar 25 2012 Dec 28 6 Secret 268
PREM19/952 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 34) 1983 Apr 2 1983 Sep 16 2013 Aug 1 6 Secret 313
PREM19/1545 Ireland (Cases of Marian Price, Dolours Rea (nee Price), Pauline McLaughlin, Robert Cardwell and the Gillespie sisters: pleas for release from imprisonment) 1980 Apr 29 1985 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 6
PREM19/2129 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 10) 1987 Apr 2 1987 Sep 9 2016 Jul 21 5
PREM19/1847 Defence (Higher organisation for defence) 1984 Feb 24 1986 Oct 2 2016 Jul 21 5
PREM19/1123 Royal family (Royal visits by Queen and Duke of Edinburgh to Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico, USA, and Canada [also Belize] February-March 1983) 1982 Jun 4 1983 Jan 31 2014 Feb 14 5 Secret 46
PREM19/1010 Education (Training colleges; extension of technical and vocational education; National Training Commission; responsibility for work related training) (Part 1) 1982 Oct 25 1983 Dec 23 2013 Aug 1 5 Secret 255
PREM19/1477 Environmental Affairs (Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution: effects of acid rain; agriculture and conservation) (Part 3) 1984 Nov 2 1985 May 30 2014 Dec 30 5 Confidential 503
PREM19/1113 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's visit to Falklands, Jan 1983) (Part 2) 1983 Jan 10 1983 Mar 29 2013 Aug 1 5 Secret 153

Pages