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
PREM19/1137 Security (Seizure of Iranian Embassy in South Kensington and the taking of hostages, April-May 1980) 1980 Apr 30 1983 Feb 24 2013 Aug 1 Secret 70
PREM19/1617 Royal Family (Queen's visit to army units in Germany, May 1984: possible threat from Irish terrorism) 1984 May 16 1984 May 21 2014 Dec 30 3 Secret 5
PREM19/1009 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Williamsburg) (Part 13) 1983 May 27 1983 Oct 2 2013 Aug 1 Secret 221
PREM19/1446 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 5) 1985 Jan 2 1985 Oct 25 2015 Jul 16 Secret 357
PREM19/449 Economic policy (Operation Enterprise campaign: organisation of government to assist small firms) 1981 Mar 3 1981 Mar 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 18
PREM19/226 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 8) 1980 Apr 29 1980 Jun 3 2010 Dec 30 Secret 251
PREM19/1199 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 11) 1983 Nov 4 1984 Nov 26 2014 Jan 3 Secret 414
PREM19/542 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy; industrial energy pricing) (Part 3) 1980 Oct 20 1981 Mar 12 2011 Dec 30 Secret 230
PREM19/733 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 3 1982 Mar 31 2012 Dec 28 Secret 200
PREM19/194 Economic policy (Small firms: eliminating undue burdens; enterprise proposals; assistance; tax relief) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 27 1980 Jun 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 173
PREM19/1167 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 36) 1984 Jan 3 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 273
PREM19/289 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 2) 1979 Nov 15 1980 Feb 26 2010 Dec 30 Secret 110
PREM19/636 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 25) 1982 Jun 17 1982 Jun 18 2012 Dec 28 Secret 130
PREM19/701 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 7) 1982 Jan 30 1982 Apr 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 189
PREM19/917 Security (Security at GCHQ: representations from Nicholas Edwards MP; untimely deaths of two GCHQ employees (Jack Wolfenden in an aircraft accident) and Ernest Peter Brockway (suspected suicide); question of a 'radio ham' who lived for 11 years with a translator at GCHQ) 1982 Nov 23 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 3 Secret 16

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