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 classificationsort ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1151 USA (Visit to UK by Kenneth Dam, US Deputy Secretary of State; discussion of US/UK relations and foreign policy issues) 1983 Nov 3 1983 Nov 7 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 74
PREM19/335 Prime Minister (Visits to government departments and regional visits) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 27 1980 Jan 11 2010 Dec 30 Secret 240
PREM19/682 Commonwealth (Heads of Government meeting in Melbourne, September-October 1981: records of meetings; Melbourne Declaration; communique) (Part 4) 1981 Sep 15 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 247
PREM19/1025 European policy (European Council meeting, Athens, December 1983) (Part 13) 1982 Oct 15 1983 Dec 8 2013 Aug 1 2 Secret 181
PREM19/213 Defence (Arms control) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 18 1979 Aug 24 2010 Dec 30 2 Secret 231
PREM19/559 Poland (Internal situation; economic assistance to Poland) (Part 2) 1980 Dec 1 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/1460 Economic policy (Policy towards privatisation: disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions) (Part 12 1984 Apr 4 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 387
PREM19/654 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (chaired by Lord Franks): general correspondence) (Part 1) 1982 Apr 15 1982 Jul 5 2012 Dec 28 Secret 203
PREM19/182 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; transitional problems; arbitration arrangements; comparability and cash limits) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 25 1980 Oct 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 193
PREM19/1087 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 10) 1982 Apr 22 1983 Jan 31 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 353
PREM19/29 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 11 2009-12-30 Secret 347
PREM19/275 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; negotiations for release of hostages; sanctions) Part 5 1980 Feb 1 1980 Apr 8 2010 Dec 30 Secret 203
PREM19/622 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 11) 1982 Apr 27 1982 Apr 29 2012 Dec 28 3 Secret 288
PREM19/963 China (Sino/British relations; defence sales) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1983 Nov 21 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 341
PREM19/838 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) Unemployment Study) (Part 7) 1982 Apr 30 1982 Aug 20 2012 Dec 28 Secret 230

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