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 descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2266 Iraq (Internal situation: Iran-Iraq War) (Part 6) 1987 Jul 20 1987 Aug 10 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
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
PREM19/64 Government machinery (Judges' expenses) 1979 Oct 19 1979 Oct 30 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 10
PREM19/1309 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 24) 1984 Dec 3 1984 Dec 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/972 Defence (Briefing on military capabilities of Warsaw Pact) 1979 May 21 1983 Jan 19 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 25
PREM19/637 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 26) 1982 Jun 19 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 212
PREM19/3005 Germany (Visits to the UK by Richard von Weizsacker, President of the Federal Republic of Germany) 1986 Feb 3 1990 Oct 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2187 Government Buildings (Vacant public property) 1987 Apr 10 1987 Apr 13 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2870 Soviet Union (Visit to the UK by Dr Andrei Sakharov: meeting with the Prime Minister, 23 June 1989) 1989 Apr 26 1989 Jun 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2049 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting on South Africa in London, August 1986) 1986 Jul 4 1987 Jan 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1565 Local Government (Future of the rating system: alternatives to domestic rates; rate limitation White Paper; rates in Scotland) (Part 3) 1983 Jul 4 1985 Dec 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 376
PREM19/1229 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 25) 1984 Jun 1 1984 Jun 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/892 Prime Minister (Meeting with George Turnbull and Anthony Fraser, President and Chairman of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Association, on problems of the UK motor industry) 1982 Oct 15 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 22
PREM19/1150 USA (Visits by Senator Jesse Helms and John Carbaugh; discussion of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe sanctions and US political matters) 1979 Jun 7 1983 Jul 23 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 97
PREM19/813 Iraq (Internal situation; Iran-Iraq War; defence issues in the Persian Gulf) (Part 2) 1980 Sep 30 1982 Jun 10 2012 Dec 28 1 Top Secret 317

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