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 descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/597 South Africa (Situation in Namibia) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 1 1981 Jul 20 2011 Dec 30 Secret 344
PREM19/3173 South Africa (Situation in Namibia) (Part 5) 1989 May 2 1990 Nov 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/370 South Africa (Visit to UK by Dr Van Zyl Slabbert, leader of opposition, September 1980: call on Prime Minister) 1980 Sep 9 1980 Oct 1 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 32
PREM19/1392 South Africa (Visit to UK by Prime Minister, P.W. Botha, June 1984; meeting with Prime Minister) 1984 Apr 13 1984 Jul 19 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 435
PREM19/2864 South Africa (Visits to London by South African Finance Ministers: Senator Owen Horwood (October 1979) and Barend du Plessis (April 1989)) 1979 Jun 19 1989 Apr 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2865 South Africa (Visits to the UK by the South African Foreign Minister, Pik Botha) 1979 Oct 16 1989 Mar 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/123 South Korea (Call on MT by South Korean Presidential envoy) 1979 May 28 1979 Jun 28 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 26
PREM19/1972 South Korea (Prime Minister's visit to South Korea, May 1986) 1982 Mar 29 1986 May 16 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1971 South Korea (UK/South Korea relations; internal situation; death of President Park; election and resignation of President Choi Kya-hah; inauguration of President Chun Doo-hwan; visit of President Chun to UK and meeting with Prime Minister, 9 April 1986) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 27 1986 Aug 21 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2537 Soviet Union (Arrest and exile to Gorky of Andrei Sakharov and his wife Yelena Bonner: Prime Minister's meetings with Mrs Bonner and other family members) 1980 Jan 23 1987 Jan 5 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2535 Soviet Union (Domestic scene: Soviet leadership succession (Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko, Gorbachev)) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 20 1987 Aug 5 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1645 Soviet Union (Economic relations: control on strategic exports; United States sanctions; sale of Rolls-Royce gas turbines; Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) list review) (Part 2) 1982 Nov 12 1985 Oct 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1973 Soviet Union (Human rights and the position of dissidents in the Soviet Union: policy towards the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE)) (Part 1) 1980 May 14 1985 May 3 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/124 Soviet Union (MT's stopover in Moscow, en route to Tokyo G7 Summit) 1979 Jun 22 1979 Jul 17 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 57
PREM19/2531 Soviet Union (Policy towards the Soviet Union) (Part 1) 1987 Aug 1 1987 Sep 8 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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