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 classification Pagessort ascending Link to selections
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
PREM19/1095 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; plant closures; future of Ian MacGregor, chairman of British Steel Corporation (BSC)) (Part 12) 1982 Dec 1 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 368
PREM19/1207 Economic policy (G7 Summit - London) (Part 15) 1984 Mar 2 1984 May 21 2014 Jan 3 2 Secret 368
PREM19/823 Japan (Prime Minister's visit to Japan, September 1982; proposed technology agreement) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 28 1982 Sep 20 2012 Dec 28 2 Confidential 368
PREM19/627 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 16) 1982 May 11 1982 May 14 2012 Dec 28 Secret 368
PREM19/1544 Iraq (Visits to UK by Iraqi Deputy Prime Ministers, Taha Ramadhan and Tariq Aziz (also Foreign Minister): meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Nov 23 1985 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30 1 Secret 362
PREM19/278 Iraq (Internal situation: relations with Iran; escalation of conflict; impact of Iraq/Iran hostilities on oil market) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 27 1980 Sep 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 361
PREM19/1283 Iraq (Internal situation; Iran-Iraq War; threat to Gulf oil supplies) (Part 3) 1982 Jun 28 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3 1 Top Secret 361
PREM19/1554 Italy (Italian PM visits to UK; Anglo/Italian Summit, October 1984) (Part 3) 1983 Sep 1 1985 Dec 19 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 361
PREM19/950 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 32) 1982 Dec 1 1983 Mar 2 2013 Aug 1 17 Secret 360
PREM19/1619 Science and Technology (Annual Review of Government-funded Research and Development: maintaining the strength of the science base) (Part 2) 1984 Aug 2 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 359
PREM19/1641 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 4) 1984 Oct 1 1985 Jun 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 358
PREM19/1642 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 5) 1985 Jul 1 1985 Aug 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 358
PREM19/1446 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 5) 1985 Jan 2 1985 Oct 25 2015 Jul 16 Secret 357
PREM19/487 India (Prime Minister's visit to India, April 1981) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 14 1981 Apr 19 2011 Dec 30 1 Secret 357

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