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? File classification Pagessort ascending Link to selections
PREM19/1331 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 10) 1984 Jun 1 1984 Jul 18 2014 Jan 3 Secret 317
PREM19/792 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong: Prime Minister's visit to China; special briefing) 1982 Sep 6 1982 Sep 23 2012 Dec 28 Secret 317
PREM19/135 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 6 1980 Jan 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 317
PREM19/1038 Gibraltar (Policy) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 2 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 315
PREM19/1494 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 4) 1983 Oct 27 1985 Jun 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 315
PREM19/749 European policy (European Council meeting in Brussels, March 1982) (Part 10) 1982 Feb 22 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 314
PREM19/1440 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: national defence technological capabilities; rising cost of defence equipment; participation in European Fighter Aircraft project) (Part 2) 1983 Dec 13 1985 Jun 27 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 314
PREM19/1479 European Policy (European Community Budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 29) 1985 Mar 5 1985 May 30 2014 Dec 30 10 Secret 314
PREM19/680 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy) (Part 10) 1982 May 12 1982 Jul 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 314
PREM19/1333 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 12) 1984 Sep 2 1984 Sep 20 2014 Jan 3 Secret 313
PREM19/952 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 34) 1983 Apr 2 1983 Sep 16 2013 Aug 1 6 Secret 313
PREM19/1163 Aerospace (Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Review; airline competition policy; position of British Caledonian and other independent airlines) (Part 2) 1984 Mar 5 1984 Sep 27 2014 Jan 3 Secret 313
PREM19/987 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 25) 1983 Nov 1 1983 Nov 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 312
PREM19/578 Regional policy (Inner city policy: creation of urban development corporations to assist in regeneration of Liverpool and London Docklands) (Part 2) 1981 Aug 11 1981 Oct 20 2011 Dec 30 Secret 312
PREM19/1178 Civil service (Introduction of new technology; computer procurement; agreement with unions) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 28 1984 Dec 20 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 312

Pages