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
PREM19/1553 Italy (Italian PM’s visits to UK) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 3 1985 Sep 12 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 297
PREM19/789 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 5 1982 Sep 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 297
PREM19/557 Parliament (House of Commons procedure; outstanding recommendations of Select Committee on Procedure; disclosure of documents to Select Committees; review of work of Departmental Select Committees) (Part 4) 1980 Jun 20 1981 Sep 4 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 296
PREM19/709 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 13) 1982 Jan 11 1982 Feb 19 2012 Dec 28 Secret 296
PREM19/1646 Soviet Union (Prime Minister's visits to Moscow for the funerals of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko in February 1984 and March 1985 respectively) 1984 Feb 13 1985 Mar 15 2014 Dec 30 Secret 295
PREM19/114 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 9) 1979 Nov 1 1979 Nov 18 2009 Dec 30 Secret 295
PREM19/1073 Japan (Commercial relations with Japan; effects of Japanese imports on the European car industry; possible Nissan investment in UK) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 22 1983 Oct 31 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 295
PREM19/1626 Security (Leak of information on sinking of Argentine warship General Belgrano in 1982 to Tam Dalyell MP: confession and trial of Clive Ponting) (Part 1) 1984 Aug 10 1985 Feb 2 2014 Dec 30 Secret 294
PREM19/1157 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment) (Part 8) 1982 Sep 6 1983 Jan 24 2013 Aug 1 Secret 294
PREM19/112 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 7) 1979 Sep 11 1979 Oct 10 2009 Dec 30 Secret 293
PREM19/940 United Nations (Visits to UK by Secretary-General, Kurt Waldheim: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 May 23 1981 May 13 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 293
PREM19/560 Poland (Internal situation; economic assistance to Poland) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 2 1981 Aug 12 2011 Dec 30 Secret 293
PREM19/1264 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 13) 1984 Apr 2 1984 Apr 30 2014 Jan 3 9 Secret 293
PREM19/873 Poland (Internal situation; state of emergency - martial law; possible measures to be taken against Poland and Soviet Union; Day of Solidarity with the Polish People) (Part 7) 1982 Jan 22 1982 Feb 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 292
PREM19/642 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 31) 1982 Nov 1 1982 Nov 29 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 292

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