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 Pages Link to selectionssort descending
PREM19/590 Security (Policy on interception) (Part 3) 1980 Apr 18 1981 Oct 9 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/591 Security (Security of the Secret Services; Chapman Pincher's book on penetration of security and intelligence services, 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Prime Minister's statement in Parliament) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1981 Aug 12 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/660 Argentina (Falklands) 1982 Apr 8 1982 Apr 12 Retained Unknown
PREM19/684 Defence (Special project) 1980 May 9 1982 Nov 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/686 Defence (Intelligence gathering operations) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1982 Oct 6 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/819 Ireland (Taoiseach Charles Haughey's advice to SDLP's John Hume in upcoming Northern Ireland election) 1982 Apr 30 1982 May 4 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/820 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summit, Rome, July 1982) 1982 Jun 18 1982 Jul 6 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/863 Parliament (Queen's speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising the State Opening of Parliament) (Part 4) 1981 Oct 26 1982 Oct 26 Closed until 2023-01-01 Unknown
PREM19/870 Poland (Intelligence) 1982 Jan 8 1982 Feb 22 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/885 Prime Minister (Meeting with Allen Adams MP to discuss redundancies at J & P Coats (UK) Ltd mill at Paisley) 1981 Nov 24 1982 Jan 22 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 27
PREM19/899 Royal family (Civil List) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 7 1982 Mar 23 Retained Unknown
PREM19/908 Security (Information provided to Sunday Times by a former Security Service officer) 1982 Jan 24 1982 Jan 25 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/911 Security (Provisional IRA: acquisition of weapons) 1982 Aug 26 1982 Sep 7 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/912 Security ('Doomsday Minus Four' by Larry Clark) 1982 Jan 14 1982 Jan 15 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/918 Security (Activities of Leo Long) 1981 Nov 2 1982 Mar 23 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown

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