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
PREM19/682 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
PREM19/2127 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
PREM19/619 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 8) 1982 Apr 18 1982 Apr 19 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 174
PREM19/811 Industrial policy (Financial difficulties of Fodens Ltd, Sandbach: local employment consequences) 1979 Jul 10 1982 Feb 10 2012 Dec 28 1 Unclassified 57
PREM19/1243 France (Prime Minister's visits to France, May 1984 and November 1984) (Part 4) 1984 May 2 1984 Dec 11 2014 Jan 3 2
PREM19/1907 Prime Minister's Gifts (Gifts received by the Prime Minister since taking office) 1979 Jul 13 1985 Nov 5 2015 Dec 30 2
PREM19/1965 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 8) 1985 Nov 1 1986 Feb 28 2016 Feb 19 2
PREM19/1405 USA (Internal political situation; 1980 and 1984 Presidential election campaigns) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1984 Nov 7 2014 Jan 3 2 Secret 457
PREM19/1259 Guinea (Visits to UK by Guinea Ministers; Prime Minister's meeting with Prime Minister Diarra Traore) 1984 Jan 23 1984 Jul 4 2014 Jan 3 2
PREM19/940 United Nations (Visits to UK by Secretary-General, Kurt Waldheim: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 May 23 1981 May 13 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 293
PREM19/2144 European Policy (Prime Minister's opening of EUREKA Ministerial Conference, London, June 1986: European capability in new technology) 1986 Jan 7 1986 Jun 16 2016 Nov 7 2
PREM19/1966 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 9) 1986 Mar 3 1986 May 30 2016 Feb 19 2
PREM19/780 Government machinery (Organisation of Treasury and Civil Service Department (CSD); reorganisation of the central departments; creation of Management and Personnel Office (MPO); future of Efficiency Unit; policy advice for Prime Minister) (Part 5) 1981 Nov 4 1982 Jul 30 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 303
PREM19/1245a Germany (Visits to UK by Chancellor Helmut Kohl; Anglo-German Summit) (Part 8A) 1983 Oct 11 1984 Aug 29 2014 Jan 3 2
PREM19/589 Security (Lord Kagan) 1980 Dec 15 1981 Apr 16 2011 Dec 30 2 Secret 19

Pages