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
PREM19/60 Government machinery (Rayner review) (Part 1) 1979 May 7 1979 Jul 14 2009 Dec 30 1 Confidential 287
PREM19/1586 Netherlands (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers Dries van Agt and Ruud Lubbers: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 23 1985 Feb 15 2014 Dec 30 1 Confidential 305
PREM19/2428 Prime Minister (Policy Unit briefing for Prime Minister: general topics) 1983 Mar 1 1987 Mar 4 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
PREM19/92 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 1) 1979 May 17 1979 Sep 20 2009 Dec 30 1 Secret 223
PREM19/12 Cuba (UK credits) 1979 Nov 19 1979 Dec 14 2009 Dec 30 1 Confidential 9
PREM19/944 USA (Relations between the UK and USA) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1982 Apr 13 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 205
PREM19/1970 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 13) 1986 Aug 1 1986 Nov 28 2016 Feb 19 1
PREM19/108 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 3) 1979 Jul 4 1979 Jul 30 2009 Dec 30 1 Secret 254
PREM19/1377 Security (Security risks in certain Civil Service grades) 1984 Oct 15 1984 Nov 5 2014 Jan 3 1
PREM19/625 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 14) 1982 May 6 1982 May 7 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 213
PREM19/2392 Posts and Telecommunications (Future of the Post Office; Government use of Mercury Communications Ltd; privatisation of National Girobank) (Part 11) 1987 Oct 5 1988 Dec 19 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1058 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 9) 1983 Oct 1 1983 Oct 31 2013 Aug 1 1 Top Secret 322
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

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