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
PREM19/647 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 5) 1982 May 5 1982 May 14 2012 Dec 28 Secret 138
PREM19/306 Nationalised Industries (Privatisation) (Part 2) 1980 Feb 21 1980 Oct 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 150
PREM19/2198 Government Machinery (Annual reports on the Government Statistical Service; review of statistical services) (Part 2) 1984 Apr 16 1988 Nov 25 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2889 United Nations (International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference, Nice, 1989) 1989 May 1 1989 Jun 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2068 Defence (Military uses of laser technology in space: United States Strategic Defence Initiative) (Part 4) 1985 Dec 4 1987 Oct 2 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1576 National Health (Road traffic accident charges: recovery of hospital costs) 1980 Apr 29 1985 Feb 27 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 30
PREM19/1239 Foreign policy (Seminars on foreign policy at Chequers, October 1984) 1984 Jun 1 1984 Oct 19 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/902 Science and Technology (Government procurement of computers and related equipment; Prime Minister’s reception for representatives of the computer industry) 1981 Mar 11 1982 Feb 15 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 131
PREM19/566 Prime Minister (Meeting with David Watkins MP to discuss closure of Consett steelworks) 1981 Feb 12 1981 Mar 13 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 20
PREM19/226 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 8) 1980 Apr 29 1980 Jun 3 2010 Dec 30 Secret 251
PREM19/2570 USA (Visit to UK by Congressman James Wright, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, July 1988) 1988 Mar 4 1988 Jul 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2050 Costa Rica (Visits to UK by President Luis Monge and his successor President Oscar Arias) 1983 Mar 30 1988 Oct 17 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2716 Home Affairs (Sentencing policy: Criminal Justice Bill; draft Green Paper 'Punishment, Custody and the Community') (Part 3) 1987 Mar 5 1989 Oct 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1837 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation) (Part 4) 1986 Jan 3 1986 Aug 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1159 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; report by Professor Patrick Minford, 'UK unemployment - analysis and policy proposals') (Part 8B) 1982 Sep 6 1983 Jan 24 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 178

Pages