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
PREM19/2261 Information and Publicity (Relations between the Civil Service and the press; role of Chief Press Secretary, No 10 Downing Street) 1979 Dec 7 1988 Oct 7 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1044 Government machinery (Internal audit and financial control in government) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 11 1983 Feb 9 2013 Aug 1 1 Confidential 195
PREM19/629 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 18) 1982 May 18 1982 May 21 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 276
PREM19/1237 Foreign policy (Prime Minister's visit to the Far East in September 1984: Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Indonesia) 1984 Aug 3 1984 Nov 23 2014 Jan 3 1
PREM19/476 Government machinery (Organisation of Treasury and Civil Service Department (CSD); consideration of a 'Prime Minister's Department') (Part 4) 1981 May 20 1981 Oct 30 2011 Dec 30 1 Secret 227
PREM19/2351 National Health (Spread of meningococcal meningitis) 1986 Mar 26 1987 Apr 3 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1375 Security (Custody contacts of persons accused of security offences, following arrest of Security Service officer Michael Bettaney) 1984 May 1 1984 Jul 13 2014 Jan 3 1
PREM19/1391 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 3) 1982 Dec 9 1984 Sep 30 2014 Jan 3 1
PREM19/1045 Government machinery (Future of Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS); CPRS work programme for 1982; Prime Minister's dissatisfaction with CPRS; abolition of CPRS) 1981 Dec 24 1983 Jul 25 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 238
PREM19/501 Ireland (Prime Minister's meeting with widows from Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, July 1980) 1980 Jun 11 1981 Apr 24 2011 Dec 30 1 Secret 62
PREM19/1392 South Africa (Visit to UK by Prime Minister, P.W. Botha, June 1984; meeting with Prime Minister) 1984 Apr 13 1984 Jul 19 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 435
PREM19/614 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 3) 1982 Apr 1 1982 Apr 5 2012 Dec 28 1 Top Secret 236
PREM19/1586 Netherlands (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers Dries van Agt and Ruud Lubbers: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 23 1985 Feb 15 2014 Dec 30 1 Confidential 305
PREM19/281 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 7) 1980 Jun 5 1980 Aug 5 2010 Dec 30 1 Secret 156
PREM19/2428 Prime Minister (Policy Unit briefing for Prime Minister: general topics) 1983 Mar 1 1987 Mar 4 2016 Jul 21 1

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