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 namesort ascending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2003 VWindward Islands (UK/Windward Island relations) 1985 Jan 31 1985 Feb 15 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/604 Vietnam (Vietnamese refugees; resettlement in the UK) (Part 3) 1979 Jul 17 1981 Feb 28 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 244
PREM19/2894 Vietnam (Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong; resettlement in the UK) (Part 4) 1981 Mar 3 1989 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/130 Vietnam (Vietnamese boat people) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 15 1979 Jul 19 2009 Dec 30 Secret 304
PREM19/129 Vietnam (Vietnamese boat people) (Part 1) 1979 May 24 1979 Jun 14 2009 Dec 30 Secret 309
PREM19/603 Venezuela (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister, Dr Zambrano Valesco, June 1981) 1981 May 8 1981 Jun 26 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 26
PREM19/2893 Venezuela (Possible visit of the Venezuelan President-elect, Jaime Lusinchi: internal situation) 1983 Nov 28 1989 Sep 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/609 Vatican (Visit to UK by the Pope, May-June 1982) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 10 1982 Jun 9 2011 Dec 30 19 Secret 153
PREM19/945 Vatican (Vatican delegation to Heads of State about nuclear weapons; meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Dec 14 1982 Jan 29 2013 Jul 25 Confidential 59
PREM19/602 Vatican (Possible visit to UK by the Pope in 1982) (Part 1) 1980 Jun 26 1981 Nov 9 2011 Dec 30 23 Confidential 187
PREM19/128 Vatican (Possible papal visit to Ireland, north & south) 1979 Jul 10 1979 Oct 1 2009 Dec 30 1 Confidential 67
PREM19/2002 Vanuatu (Visits to UK by Prime Minister Father Walter Lini: calls on the Prime Minister, November 1981, July 1983 and February 1986) 1981 Sep 16 1986 Feb 24 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1655 USA (Visits to UK by George Shultz, US Secretary of State: meetings with Prime Minister) 1982 Apr 9 1985 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/383 USA (Visits to UK by Cyrus Vance, US Secretary of State: meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 May 14 1980 Feb 22 2010 Dec 30 Secret 173
PREM19/1653 USA (Visits to UK by Arthur Burns, former Chairman of Federal Reserve Board: meeting with Prime Minister, September 1979) 1979 Aug 13 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 61

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