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 ascending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1418 Agriculture (Agricultural expenditure) (Part 1) 1983 Sep 23 1985 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 307
PREM19/1165 Agriculture (Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development (ACARD) report on the food industry and technology) 1982 Jul 26 1984 Aug 7 2014 Jan 3 Restricted 89
PREM19/2584 Agricultural (Agricultural Wages Board) 1983 Mar 28 1989 Jan 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/137 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 4) 1980 Feb 28 1980 Apr 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/136 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 21 1980 Feb 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 257
PREM19/135 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 6 1980 Jan 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 317
PREM19/134 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 1) 1979 Dec 17 1980 Jan 6 2010 Dec 30 Secret 280
PREM19/1672 Afghanistan (Internal situation: Soviet military intervention; Western response to Soviet invasion) (Part 6) 1981 Sep 22 1985 Oct 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2013 Afghanistan (Internal situation) (Part 7) 1986 May 8 1988 Mar 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/387 Afghanistan (Internal Situation) (Part 5) 1980 Apr 10 1981 Sep 14 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 333
PREM19/1409 Aerospace(Presentation on United States manned space station at Lancaster House during London Economic Summit, 1984) 1984 Mar 20 1984 Jun 6 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 17
PREM19/2583 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 7) 1987 Feb 2 1989 Jun 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1671 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 6) 1986 Aug 1 1986 Nov 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1670 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 5) 1986 Mar 3 1986 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1669 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 4) 1986 Jan 25 1986 Feb 28 2016 Feb 19

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