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
PREM19/2477 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget; national priorities for science and technology) (Part 5) 1986 Nov 14 1987 Aug 13 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/240 Gabon (Visit to UK by President Bongo, May 1980: call on Prime Minister) 1980 Apr 23 1980 May 22 2010 Dec 30 Secret 43
PREM19/1985 Trade (Commodity policy; International Tin Agreement and International Tin Council; implications of difficulties in tin market for Cornish tin mines; Select Committee report on the tin crisis; renegotiation of International Natural Rubber Agreement) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 5 1986 May 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2664 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 43) 1989 Oct 2 1989 Nov 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1806 Industrial policy (Short Borthers Ltd) 1980 Nov 6 1986 Aug 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1182 Defence (Deployment of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) in Europe) (Part 4) 1983 Sep 21 1984 Jun 29 2014 Jan 3 Top Secret 369
PREM19/845 Ministers (Lord President's participation in BBC Radio 4 programme on the Privy Council) 1982 Jun 15 1982 Jun 22 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 6
PREM19/509 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach (Garret Fitzgerald); Anglo-Irish Summit, November 1981) (Part 5) 1981 Oct 22 1981 Nov 6 2011 Dec 30 Secret 224
PREM19/3177 Soviet Union (Policy towards the Soviet Union: call on Prime Minister by Robert Conquest; Soviet and East European studies) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 13 1990 Jun 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2380 Parliament (Parliamentary Secretary's minutes on forthcoming Parliamentary affairs) (Part 2) 1985 Jul 3 1987 Oct 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/607 Defence (Nuclear release procedures; understandings between the USA and UK on use of nuclear weapons and bases) (Part 2) 1980 Apr 29 1981 Mar 9 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2513 Security (Case of Michael Bettaney and the ensuing review of the Security Service) 1986 Jun 2 1988 Nov 8 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1727 Education (Training: White Paper on vocational education and training for jobs; extension of technical and vocational education; proposed National Council for Vocational Qualifications (NCVQ)) (Part 2) 1984 Jan 3 1986 Jun 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1102 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Dr Henry Kaufman of Salomon Brothers Inc: economic situation in USA; international economic situation) 1983 Mar 4 1983 Mar 4 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 4
PREM19/1384 Security (South African diplomat accused of spying for Russia) 1983 Jan 19 1984 Jan 23 2014 Jan 3

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