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
PREM19/896 Rhodesia (Sir Roy Welensky, former Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland) 1979 Oct 31 1982 Oct 28 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 61
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
PREM19/512 Jordan (Visits to UK by King Hussein: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 1 1981 Nov 18 2011 Dec 30 1
PREM19/83 Ireland (Northern Ireland situation) (Part 4) 1979 Oct 24 1979 Nov 29 2009 Dec 30 1 Secret 225
PREM19/944 USA (Relations between the UK and USA) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1982 Apr 13 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 205
PREM19/625 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 14) 1982 May 6 1982 May 7 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 213
PREM19/1058 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 9) 1983 Oct 1 1983 Oct 31 2013 Aug 1 1 Top Secret 322
PREM19/212 Defence (Arms control) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 15 2010 Dec 30 1 Top Secret 199
PREM19/817 Ireland (Northern Ireland Security Co-ordinator: appointments of Sir Maurice Oldfield and Sir Brooks Richards; post then left in abeyance) 1979 Sep 18 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret - Cabinet 2 146
PREM19/1283 Iraq (Internal situation; Iran-Iraq War; threat to Gulf oil supplies) (Part 3) 1982 Jun 28 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3 1 Top Secret 361
PREM19/1599 Posts and Telecommunications (Privatisation of British Telecom (BT) and National Girobank: future of the Post Office) (Part 9) 1984 Aug 1 1985 Jul 30 2014 Dec 30 1
PREM19/498 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland; force levels) (Part 8) 1980 Aug 12 1981 Feb 25 2011 Dec 30 1 Top Secret - UK eyes A 224
PREM19/1187 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 10) 1983 May 4 1984 Apr 12 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 121
PREM19/963 China (Sino/British relations; defence sales) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1983 Nov 21 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 341
PREM19/978 Defence (Future UK defence policy; the health of the NATO Alliance; review of NATO) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 5 1983 Oct 3 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 246

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