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 classificationsort ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1063 Industrial policy (Future of Times newspapers: sale by Thomson Organisation; purchase by Rupert Murdoch's News International) 1979 Oct 16 1983 Jul 18 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 111
PREM19/876 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office: telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; British Telecom's financial position and prices; System X) (Part 4) 1982 Mar 22 1982 Jul 19 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 159
PREM19/412 Defence (Modernisation of Theatre Nuclear Forces (TNF) in Europe; proposed basing of United States Ground Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCM) in the UK) (Part 2) 1979 Dec 3 1981 Mar 10 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 106
PREM19/628 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 17) 1982 May 15 1982 May 17 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 153
PREM19/2567 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, July 1987) (Part 2) 1987 Jul 24 1987 Nov 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2475 Saudi Arabia (Internal situation: relations with UK) 1986 May 1 1987 Feb 26 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2284 Japan (Anglo-Japanese relations) (Part 6) 1987 Jan 2 1987 Apr 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2796 Parliament (Boundary Commission reviews of Parliamentary constituencies in Wales and the UK) (Part 2) 1986 Jul 11 1989 Jan 18 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2568 USA (UK/USA relations) 1986 Jun 1 1987 Jun 26 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2515 Security (The Hijacking Declaration of the Bonn Summit, July 1978: prevention of international terrorist activity) (Part 5) 1986 Jun 2 1988 May 25 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2476 Saudi Arabia (Visits by Crown Prince Abdullah, February 1984 and June 1988) 1982 Oct 7 1988 Jun 21 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2059 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 8) 1987 Jan 8 1987 Jul 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2569 USA (Visit to UK by President Reagan, June 1988) 1984 Jun 1 1988 Sep 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2174 Foreign Policy (Future inward and outward State visits; visits by members of the Royal Family) 1985 Sep 1 1988 Aug 5 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2516 Security (Lord and Lady Rothschild) 1987 Jun 8 1987 Jul 17 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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