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
PREM19/1291 Ireland (European Commission of Human Rights: case of Farrell v. UK) 1979 Nov 7 1984 Aug 1 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2219 Home Affairs (Data protection) (Part 1) 1980 Nov 27 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2928 Comoros (UK/Comoros relations) 1987 Jun 5 1990 Oct 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/31 Economic policy (Privatization) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 4 1979 Jul 20 2009 Dec 30 Secret 189
PREM19/1996 United Nations (United Nations financial crisis) 1986 Mar 7 1986 Apr 28 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/586 Security (Case of Howard Marks) 1979 Jul 4 1981 Nov 24 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1546 Ireland (Lear Fan aircraft project at Aldergove) 1980 Feb 12 1985 Oct 15 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 72
PREM19/246 Government Machinery (Future of Directorate of Overseas Surveys and Centre for Overseas Pest Research) 1979 Jul 19 1980 Feb 8 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 14
PREM19/1210 Economic policy (G7 Summit - London) (Part 16C) 1984 Jun 1 1984 Jun 7 2014 Jan 3 Secret 140
PREM19/873 Poland (Internal situation; state of emergency - martial law; possible measures to be taken against Poland and Soviet Union; Day of Solidarity with the Polish People) (Part 7) 1982 Jan 22 1982 Feb 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 292
PREM19/2607 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM), Kuala Lumpur, October 1989) (Part 15) 1989 Oct 1 1989 Oct 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2102 Economic Policy (Policy towards privatisation; disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions) (Part 16) 1987 Apr 1 1988 Dec 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2746 Iraq (Iran/Iraq peace talks: future of Royal Navy deployments in the Gulf) (Part 10) 1989 Jan 25 1989 Sep 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1808 Iran (Internal situation: Anglo-Iranian relations) (Part 9) 1981 Feb 23 1986 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/506 Ireland (Hunger strike at the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland; the 'Dirty Protest') (Part 5) 1981 Jul 3 1981 Aug 28 2011 Dec 30 Secret 335

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