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 releasesort ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2490 Security (Intelligence Co-ordinator in the Cabinet Office: proposed appointment of the Sir Anthony Duff and his successors) 1980 Jun 18 1988 Oct 17 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2211 Greece (UK/Greek relations) (Part 1) 1980 May 1 1987 Mar 31 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1381 Security (Information leaked by ‘The Guardian’ about siting of cruise nuclear missiles at Greenham Common; Sarah Tisdall not referred to Security Commission) 1983 Oct 24 1984 Apr 9 Retained Retained
PREM19/2530 Soviet Union (Prime Minister's visit to Soviet Union, March-April 1987: briefing for Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1987 Apr 1 1987 Jun 26 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2491 Security (Terrorist activity and extremism in Great Britain) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 3 1987 Sep 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2068 Defence (Military uses of laser technology in space: United States Strategic Defence Initiative) (Part 4) 1985 Dec 4 1987 Oct 2 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2327 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 17) 1987 Oct 2 1988 Feb 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2579 Economic Policy (Inquiry into Barlow Clowes Group) 1988 Jun 13 1988 Sep 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2216 Home Affairs (Assaults on children: inquiry into child abuse and attached report on child abuse in Cleveland; activities of the Paedophile International Exchange) (Part 1) 1983 Sep 1 1988 Sep 5 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2531 Soviet Union (Policy towards the Soviet Union) (Part 1) 1987 Aug 1 1987 Sep 8 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2492 Security (Terrorist activity and extremism in Great Britain, including threat to UK nuclear facilities and nuclear materials) (Part 4) 1987 Oct 19 1988 Sep 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2069 Defence (Nuclear release procedures) (Part 4) 1983 Mar 1 1987 Oct 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2328 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 18) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Dec 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2222 Home Affairs (Monopolies and Mergers Commission Report on proposed takeover of House of Fraser by Lonrho) 1987 Jan 12 1987 Oct 28 Retained Closed for 40 years
PREM19/2753 Japan (Prime Minister's visit to Japan, September 1989) (Part 3a) 1989 Apr 27 1989 Sep 15 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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