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 Pagessort ascending Link to selections
PREM19/987 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 25) 1983 Nov 1 1983 Nov 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 312
PREM19/600 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, February 1981: meeting with President Reagan) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 2 1981 Feb 28 2011 Dec 30 Secret 311
PREM19/1643 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 6) 1985 Sep 2 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 311
PREM19/1262 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 11) 1984 Jan 3 1984 Jan 31 2014 Jan 3 8 Secret 310
PREM19/179 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 5) 1980 Sep 23 1980 Oct 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 310
PREM19/576 Regional policy (Creation of Enterprise Zones; possible measures to assist Merseyside; Central Policy Review Staff report) (Part 3) 1980 Jul 4 1981 Jun 29 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 309
PREM19/1105 Prime Minister (Arab League Delegation visit to London; inclusion of representative of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)) (Part 1) 1980 Aug 4 1983 Feb 28 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 309
PREM19/1650 Transport (Channel Fixed Link (Channel Tunnel): economic considerations; discussions with the French) (Part 3) 1985 Apr 1 1985 Dec 24 2014 Dec 30 Secret 309
PREM19/129 Vietnam (Vietnamese boat people) (Part 1) 1979 May 24 1979 Jun 14 2009 Dec 30 Secret 309
PREM19/1528 Home Affairs (Football hooliganism: behaviour of British football fans abroad; European Cup Final disaster in Brussels, May 1985) (Part 3) 1985 Jun 1 1985 Jun 28 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 309
PREM19/1154 Zimbabwe (Internal situation; trial of air force officers on sabotage charges; sale of Hunter aircraft; British Military Advisory and Training Team (BMATT); status of Joshua Nkomo in UK) (Part 3) 1982 Dec 1 1983 Oct 28 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 308
PREM19/1537 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland: privatisation of UniPart) (Part 8) 1984 Apr 2 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 308
PREM19/493 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland (BL)) (Part 5) 1981 Jan 22 1981 Oct 31 2011 Dec 30 Secret 308
PREM19/1418 Agriculture (Agricultural expenditure) (Part 1) 1983 Sep 23 1985 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 307
PREM19/219 European Policy (European Council Meeting in Luxembourg, 27-28 April 1980 (re-scheduled from Brussels)) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 5 1980 May 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 307

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