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
PREM19/1170 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing - defence after repossession) (Part 13) 1983 Mar 18 1984 Jan 23 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/954 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing - defence after repossession) (Part 12) 1982 Dec 27 1983 Mar 12 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/1183 Defence (Intelligence gathering operations) (Part 2) 1984 Oct 7 1984 Dec 6 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/2500 Security (Reform of Official Secrets Act: proposed Protection of Official Information Bill; enforcing the duty of confidentiality) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1987 Oct 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/160 Defence (Nuclear release procedures; UK/US understandings on the use of nuclear weapons and bases) (Part 1) 1979 May 9 1980 Mar 25 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2393 Posts and Telecommunications (Study by the Official Group on Telecommunications on withstanding a telecommunications strike; industrial action at British Telecom (BT)) 1982 Jan 11 1987 Mar 3 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2606 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM), Kuala Lumpur, October 1989) (Part 14) 1988 Dec 14 1989 Oct 12 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2541 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 9) 1987 Nov 2 1987 Dec 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2230 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 19) 1986 Nov 18 1987 Sep 9 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/660 Argentina (Falklands) 1982 Apr 8 1982 Apr 12 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2501 Security (White Paper on Reform of Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911: proposed Protection of Official Information Bill; enforcing the duty of confidentiality) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 3 1988 Jul 19 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/355 Royal Family (Duke of Windsor’s papers: allegations by Duc de Grantmesnil that they were stolen by secret agents) 1979 May 10 1980 Jun 18 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2394 Prime Minister (Mark Thatcher and the Omanis: other allegations against Mark Thatcher) 1984 Jan 1 1988 Nov 9 Retained Closed for 40 years
PREM19/2542 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 10) 1988 Jan 1 1988 Jun 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2231 Hong Kong (Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC)) 1985 Aug 28 1987 Jul 21 Retained Closed for 40 years

Pages