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 ascending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3181 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations: internal situation; Lithuanian declaration of independence) (Part 15) 1990 Feb 1 1990 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1647 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations) (Part 4) 1985 Jan 3 1985 Oct 25 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 341
PREM19/1393 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations) (Part 2) 1982 Apr 21 1984 May 14 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/925 Soviet Union (Trade relations: credit restrictions; United States sanctions against Siberian pipeline - impact on John Brown Engineering and other European companies; controls on strategic exports) (Part 2) 1982 Apr 19 1982 Nov 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 276
PREM19/924 Soviet Union (Trade relations: credit agreement; uranium enrichment contract; grain sales; controls on strategic exports) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 27 1982 Mar 22 2012 Dec 28 Secret 235
PREM19/2536 Soviet Union (Soviet visa applications) 1979 Jun 13 1987 Jan 12 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2534 Soviet Union (Soviet military expenditure and capabilities) 1979 May 24 1988 Dec 7 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/3178 Soviet Union (Soviet leadership: major political speeches) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 2 1990 Jun 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2533 Soviet Union (Soviet intentions towards Iran) 1980 Apr 16 1987 Sep 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/909 Soviet Union (Soviet General Staff Command exercise) 1982 Jun 24 1982 Jul 15 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 6
PREM19/2532 Soviet Union (Soviet economy: grain harvest) 1979 Dec 1 1987 Jun 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3186 Soviet Union (Situation of Jews in the Soviet Union: Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry; Prime Minister's meeting with Ida Nudel; Raoul Wallenberg) (Part 2) 1987 Feb 10 1990 Jun 20 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1140 Soviet Union (Representations from Commander Anthony Courtney, former Conservative MP, about Soviet espionage activity in UK) 1980 Jan 8 1982 Dec 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 30
PREM19/926 Soviet Union (Relations between the UK and Soviet Union) (Part 1) 1979 May 23 1982 Apr 5 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 214
PREM19/2543 Soviet Union (Relations between the Soviet Union and India) 1987 Jun 10 1987 Jun 17 Retained Retained Sec 3.4

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