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
PREM19/739 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 15) 1982 Mar 22 1982 May 14 2012 Dec 28 3 Secret 196
PREM19/1082 Local government (Future of rating system; alternatives to domestic rates; rate limitation schemes) (Part 2) 1982 Jul 23 1983 Jun 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 334
PREM19/955 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (chaired by Lord Franks); general correspondence) (Part 3) 1982 Oct 29 1983 Jan 18 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 264
PREM19/1646 Soviet Union (Prime Minister's visits to Moscow for the funerals of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko in February 1984 and March 1985 respectively) 1984 Feb 13 1985 Mar 15 2014 Dec 30 Secret 295
PREM19/1174 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; Civil Service manpower; personnel work in Civil Service; the extension of unified grading; equal opportunities) (Part 14) 1983 Oct 3 1984 Jan 25 2014 Jan 3 Secret 368
PREM19/492 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland (BL)) (Part 4) 1980 Jul 2 1981 Jan 22 2011 Dec 30 Secret 257
PREM19/20 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 3) 1979 Jul 17 1979 Aug 29 2009 Dec 30 Secret 139
PREM19/924 Soviet Union (Trade relations: credit agreement; uranium enrichment contract; grain sales; controls on strategic exports) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 27 1982 Mar 22 2012 Dec 28 Secret 235
PREM19/239 France (Prime Minister’s visit to France, September 1980: Franco-British Conference at Bordeaux) 1979 Oct 9 1980 Oct 6 2010 Dec 30 Secret 321
PREM19/113 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 8) 1979 Oct 11 1979 Oct 31 2009 Dec 30 Secret 342
PREM19/460 European policy (Report by the 'Three Wise Men' on European Community institutions) 1979 Mar 13 1981 Jun 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 184
PREM19/329 Parliament (Top Salaries Review Body report on Parliamentary pay) (Part 2) 1980 Feb 12 1980 Jul 10 2010 Dec 30 Secret 194
PREM19/676 Civil service (Pay and pensions) (Part 12) 1982 Jul 8 1982 Nov 18 2012 Dec 28 Secret 93
PREM19/1017 Energy (Future offshore petroleum licensing; seventh and eighth licensing rounds) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 20 1983 Sep 15 2013 Aug 1 Secret 197
PREM19/1710 Economic policy (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor of the Exchequer: briefing notes) (Part 1) 1983 Oct 4 1986 Oct 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 180

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