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 descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1090 National health (National Health Service (NHS) pay dispute; pay determination process in NHS) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 7 1983 Aug 18 2013 Aug 1 Secret 193
PREM19/276 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; US mission to release hostages; sanctions) (Part 6) 1980 Apr 9 1980 Apr 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 244
PREM19/891 Prime Minister (Meeting with Hong Kong Association members) 1982 Aug 20 1982 Sep 27 2012 Dec 28 Secret 28
PREM19/424 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 9) 1981 Jun 11 1981 Oct 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 272
PREM19/765 Germany (Chancellor Kohl's visit to the UK, October 1982: meetings with the Prime Minister) (Part 6) 1982 Oct 8 1982 Nov 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 90
PREM19/154 Civil Service (Civil Service manpower: action to reduce size of Civil Service and staff costs; Civil Service pay; early retirement) (Part 4) 1980 Mar 5 1980 Jul 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 273
PREM19/1184 Defence (Arms control) (Part 5) 1983 Dec 8 1984 Dec 14 2014 Jan 3 Secret 274
PREM19/28 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Tokyo) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 30 1979 Oct 18 2009 Dec 30 Secret 114
PREM19/984 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 22) 1983 Jan 24 1983 Jun 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 272
PREM19/1079 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 15) 1983 Jan 4 1983 Jun 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 198
PREM19/1155 Foreign policy (Strategy meetings: foreign affairs and defence) (Part 1) 1983 Apr 22 1983 Dec 22 2013 Aug 1 Secret 417
PREM19/952 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 34) 1983 Apr 2 1983 Sep 16 2013 Aug 1 6 Secret 313
PREM19/215 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 5 1980 Mar 10 2010 Dec 30 Secret 116
PREM19/358 Security (Article by Duncan Campbell in New Statesman on US National Security Agency (NSA) activities at Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire) 1980 Jul 18 1980 Jul 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 11
PREM19/704 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 6) 1982 Jan 25 1982 Apr 28 2012 Dec 28 Secret 194

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