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?sort ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/504 Ireland (Hunger strike at the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland; the 'Dirty Protest') (Part 3) 1981 Apr 22 1981 May 20 2011 Dec 30 1 Secret 267
PREM19/840 Memorials (Dedication of Defenders' Memorial in Westminster Abbey, March 1982; Dame Ruth King's initiative) 1981 Aug 21 1982 Mar 27 2012 Dec 28 1 Confidential 53
PREM19/633 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 22) 1982 Jun 1 1982 Jun 5 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 237
PREM19/1871 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy; British Shipbuilders) (Part 10) 1986 May 1 1986 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/212 Defence (Arms control) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 15 2010 Dec 30 1 Top Secret 199
PREM19/2093 Economic Policy (Exchange rate: exchange control policy) (Part 2) 1982 Apr 6 1986 Dec 11 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/824 Lebanon (Internal situation; Israeli/Lebanese hostilities; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 16 1982 Jul 10 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 345
PREM19/83 Ireland (Northern Ireland situation) (Part 4) 1979 Oct 24 1979 Nov 29 2009 Dec 30 1 Secret 225
PREM19/2290 Kenya (Prime Minister's visit to Kenya, January 1988) (Part 1) 1987 Nov 16 1988 Apr 20 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/634 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 23) 1982 Jun 6 1982 Jun 11 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 271
PREM19/1872 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding: Hill-Norton Committee Report on Hull Forms for Warships ('short fat ships')) (Part 1) 1985 Jul 2 1986 Sep 29 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2127 Education (Reorganisation of schools in Ilkeston, Derbyshire: Prime Minister's concern at deficiencies in Department of Education and Science (DES) decision-making procedures) 1987 Dec 2 1988 Feb 24 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1179 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, New Delhi, November 1983) (Part 7) 1983 Nov 27 1984 Jan 20 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 260
PREM19/682 Commonwealth (Heads of Government meeting in Melbourne, September-October 1981: records of meetings; Melbourne Declaration; communique) (Part 4) 1981 Sep 15 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 247
PREM19/619 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 8) 1982 Apr 18 1982 Apr 19 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 174

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