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
PREM19/974 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: HARM/ALARM anti-radar missiles; rising cost of defence equipment; competition in defence procurement) (Part 1) 1983 Mar 29 1983 Nov 23 2013 Aug 1 Secret 291
PREM19/161 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1980 Jan 17 2010 Dec 30 Secret 129
PREM19/507 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach (Charles Haughey); Anglo-Irish joint studies) (Part 3) 1980 Aug 11 1981 Mar 5 2011 Dec 30 Secret 275
PREM19/44 Energy (British National Oil Corporation & BP shares) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 3 1979 Sep 12 2009 Dec 30 Secret 174
PREM19/1192 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 28) 1984 Sep 5 1984 Oct 18 2014 Jan 3 Secret 300
PREM19/1534 Hungary (UK/Hungarian relations: Prime Minister's visit to Hungary, February 1984) (Part 2) 1984 Feb 1 1985 Jan 16 2014 Dec 30 Secret 343
PREM19/1069 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 14) 1983 Aug 1 1983 Dec 13 2013 Aug 1 12 Secret 274
PREM19/1411 Aerospace (European Airbus A320 project: UK participation in European Transonic Windtunnel project) (Part 1) 1982 Mar 30 1985 Jun 24 2014 Dec 30 Secret 259
PREM19/600 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, February 1981: meeting with President Reagan) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 2 1981 Feb 28 2011 Dec 30 Secret 311
PREM19/1163 Aerospace (Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Review; airline competition policy; position of British Caledonian and other independent airlines) (Part 2) 1984 Mar 5 1984 Sep 27 2014 Jan 3 Secret 313
PREM19/1037 Germany (Chancellor Helmut Kohl's visits to the UK: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 7) 1982 Nov 29 1983 May 16 2013 Aug 1 Secret 357
PREM19/1597 Parliament (MPs' pay and pensions) (Part 5) 1982 Oct 15 1985 Mar 26 2014 Dec 30 Secret 253
PREM19/225 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 7) 1980 Mar 19 1980 Apr 28 2010 Dec 30 1 Secret 259
PREM19/913 Security (Labour Party discussion document on the Security Services) 1981 Feb 6 1982 Feb 28 2012 Dec 28 Secret 13
PREM19/447 Economic policy (Report by Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) on pay: ministerial consideration) 1981 Jun 19 1981 Sep 22 2011 Dec 30 Secret 106

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