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
PREM19/440 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 7) 1980 Dec 1 1981 Mar 12 2011 Dec 30 Secret 244
PREM19/1376 Security (Proposed book by Vernon Newton on Donald Maclean's espionage activities) 1984 May 14 1984 May 21 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1040 Government machinery (Ministerial responsibility for scrutiny of future proposed power of entry) 1982 Oct 6 1983 Aug 3 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 48
PREM19/2987 European Policy (Visit to the UK by Jose Maria de Areilza, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, February 1982: possible visit by Catherine Lalumiere, Secretary General of the Council of Europe) 1981 Jul 15 1990 Feb 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2184 Germany (750th anniversary of Berlin in 1987) 1986 Jun 26 1987 May 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2864 South Africa (Visits to London by South African Finance Ministers: Senator Owen Horwood (October 1979) and Barend du Plessis (April 1989)) 1979 Jun 19 1989 Apr 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2046 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, October 1987) (Part 11) 1986 Sep 4 1987 Oct 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1562 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 28) 1985 Aug 1 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 404
PREM19/207 Energy (Energy conservation and home insulation schemes: oil demand restraint) (Part 1) 1979 May 31 1980 Apr 8 2010 Dec 30 Secret 262
PREM19/695 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 5) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Sep 9 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 126
PREM19/354 Royal Family (Visit to France by Prince Charles, July 1980) 1980 Apr 15 1980 Apr 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 8
PREM19/1297 Lebanon (Internal situation; Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 6) 1983 Dec 30 1984 Feb 27 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2551 Trade (Multilateral trade negotiations) 1979 May 17 1987 Nov 19 2016-07-2016
PREM19/959 Belize (Future of Belize) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 1 1982 May 4 2013 Aug 1 Secret 252
PREM19/2027 Broadcasting (Prime Minister's seminar on broadcasting, 21 September 1987) (Part 1) 1987 Mar 5 1987 Sep 21 2016 Feb 19

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