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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1054 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 5) 1983 Feb 17 1983 Apr 19 2013 Aug 1 11 Top Secret 317
PREM19/1267 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 16) 1984 Aug 1 1984 Sep 25 2014 Jan 3 11 Secret 415
PREM19/691 Defence (Replacement of Royal Air Force (RAF) communications aircraft; aircraft for Queen's Flight) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 16 1982 Nov 24 2013 Nov 20 10 Secret 254
PREM19/1479 European Policy (European Community Budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 29) 1985 Mar 5 1985 May 30 2014 Dec 30 10 Secret 314
PREM19/1264 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 13) 1984 Apr 2 1984 Apr 30 2014 Jan 3 9 Secret 293
PREM19/1265 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 14) 1984 May 1 1984 Jun 30 2014 Jan 3 9 Secret UK eyes 373
PREM19/2447 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Italy for Anglo-Italian Summit, October 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Dec 21 1988 Oct 20 2016 Nov 7 9
PREM19/1430 Civil Service (Scrutiny of Overseas Development Administration (ODA): correspondence from civil servant in ODA) 1982 Feb 12 1985 Dec 3 2014 Dec 30 9 Confidential 59
PREM19/951 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 33) 1983 Mar 3 1983 Apr 30 2013 Aug 1 9 Secret 322
PREM19/1262 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 11) 1984 Jan 3 1984 Jan 31 2014 Jan 3 8 Secret 310
PREM19/943 USA (Visit to UK by President Reagan, June 1982: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1982 May 5 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 8 Secret 227
PREM19/771 Government buildings (Building of an international conference centre on Broad Sanctuary in Westminster; redevelopment of Richmond Yard/Bridge Street site) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 1 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 8 Secret 215
PREM19/1055 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 6) 1983 Apr 20 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 7 Secret 268
PREM19/815 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 11) 1982 Feb 4 1982 Jun 30 2012 Dec 28 7 Secret 133
PREM19/800 India (Visit to UK by Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, March 1982: Festival of India 1982) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 17 1982 Feb 27 2012 Dec 28 7 Confidential 207

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