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
PREM19/1023 European policy (European Council meeting, Copenhagen, December 1982) (Part 12) 1982 Sep 24 1983 Feb 10 2013 Aug 1 Secret 172
PREM19/1305 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 20) 1984 Apr 3 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/686 Defence (Intelligence gathering operations) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1982 Oct 6 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1020 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 19) 1982 Nov 4 1983 Jan 31 Closed until 2019-01-01 Unknown
PREM19/336 Prime Minister (Meeting with delegation from British Chamber of Commerce on trade union immunities) 1980 Apr 24 1980 Jun 5 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 34
PREM19/2966 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; environmental objectives and land use planning) (Part 14) 1990 Feb 6 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2183 France (Visits to UK by Raymond Barre, December 1981, April 1983, January 1986 and March 1987) 1980 Dec 1 1987 Mar 25 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2858 Somalia (Visit to the UK by Major-General Mohamed Siad Barre, President of Somalia (June 1988); visit by Mohamed Ali Samatar, Prime Minister of Somalia (January 1989)) 1982 Mar 4 1989 Apr 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1280 Industrial policy (Ports: review of policy, industrial action; uture of Port of London Authority (PLA)) (Part 2) 1982 May 11 1984 Dec 10 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1561 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 27) 1985 Jun 3 1985 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 380
PREM19/606 Zimbabwe (Internal situation; aid; relations with South Africa) 1980 Apr 17 1981 Nov 2 2011 Dec 30 Secret 258
PREM19/2550 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy) (Part 4) 1986 Aug 18 1987 Oct 29 2016-07-2016
PREM19/257 India (Call on Prime Minister by Swraj Paul, Vice Chairman, Indo/British Association, July 1980; Indo-British exchange conference) 1980 Jun 18 1980 Jul 16 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 26
PREM19/2026 Broadcasting (Independent review of the radio frequency spectrum between 30 and 960 MHz: Merriman Report) 1982 Apr 26 1988 Jul 29 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2693 France (Franco-British Council conference, Avignon, November 1984, and subsequent correspondence) 1983 Jun 27 1989 May 18 2016 Dec 30

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