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 releasesort ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1367 Royal family (Relations between the media and members of the Royal Family; possible legal measures to prevent harassment) 1984 Jan 3 1984 Jan 18 Retained Retained
PREM19/2508 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 9) 1987 Sep 23 1987 Oct 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/787 Hong Kong (Intelligence operations) 1982 Sep 1 1982 Sep 10 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2470 Royal Family (Proposals relating to the papers concerning the Abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936) 1985 Feb 21 1988 Mar 24 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2277 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 23) 1987 Nov 1 1988 Mar 31 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2556 Transport (British Rail fares: industrial action by the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR) and the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF); possible line closures; British Rail finances) 1986 Oct 9 1988 Sep 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2146 European Policy (Presidency of European Commission (reappointment of Jacques Delors): UK Commissioners (appointment and meetings with Prime Minister); David Williamson to succeed Emile Noel as Secretary-General; UK representation in official posts in Commission) (Part 3) 1984 Jan 2 1988 Jul 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2509 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 10) 1987 Nov 2 1988 Mar 31 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2471 Royal Family (Marriage of the Earl of St Andrews, son of the Duke and Duchess of Kent) 1986 Dec 5 1986 Dec 8 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2278 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 24) 1988 Apr 1 1988 Aug 31 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2510 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 11) 1988 Apr 7 1988 Sep 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2472 Royal Family (Career of Prince Andrew, Duke of York) 1979 May 21 1987 Oct 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2279 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 25) 1988 Sep 1 1988 Sep 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2983 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS): economic and monetary union) (Part 7) 1990 May 1 1990 Jun 27 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2511 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 12) 1988 Oct 5 1988 Dec 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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