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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1 Archives (Suez 1956 files) 1980 Feb 21 1986 Jun 30 2006 Dec 1 Confidential 36
PREM19/188 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Venice) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 3 1980 Jun 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 265
PREM19/189 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Venice) (Part 4) [Part 5 of this file has been destroyed] 1980 Jun 20 1980 Aug 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 189
PREM19/2089 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - Venice, June 1987) (Part 22) 1986 Sep 18 1987 May 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2090 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - Venice, June 1987) (Part 23) 1987 Jun 1 1988 Feb 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1490 European Policy (European Council meeting, Brussels, March 1985) (Part 20) 1985 Mar 7 1985 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 718
PREM19/1491 European Policy (European Council meeting, Milan, June 1985) (Part 21) 1985 May 10 1985 Jun 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 276
PREM19/1492 European Policy (European Council meeting, Milan, June 1985) (Part 22) 1985 Jun 27 1985 Dec 6 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 247
PREM19/220 European Policy (European Council Meeting, Venice, 12-13 June 1980) (Part 4) 1980 Jan 14 1980 Jun 19 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 181
PREM19/754 European policy (European Council meeting, Venice, June 1980: briefing papers) 1980 Jun 3 1980 Jun 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 754
PREM19/2979 European Policy (Special European Council meeting in Rome, October 1990) (Part 37) 1989 Dec 18 1990 Nov 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1818 Italy (Anglo-Italian relations: Italian political scene; British contribution to Italian earthquake relief, 1980-1981) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 5 1986 Nov 6 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 387
PREM19/820 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summit, Rome, July 1982) 1982 Jun 18 1982 Jul 6 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/510 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 20 1981 Nov 11 2011 Dec 30 Secret - UK eyes A 211
PREM19/1554 Italy (Italian PM visits to UK; Anglo/Italian Summit, October 1984) (Part 3) 1983 Sep 1 1985 Dec 19 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 361

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