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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1292 Ireland (Possible visit to Republic of Ireland by President Reagan; visit to USA by Irish Prime Minister) 1983 Dec 22 1984 Jan 24 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/954 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing - defence after repossession) (Part 12) 1982 Dec 27 1983 Mar 12 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/278 Iraq (Internal situation: relations with Iran; escalation of conflict; impact of Iraq/Iran hostilities on oil market) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 27 1980 Sep 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 361
PREM19/2829 Royal Family (Royal visit to Brussels, November 1980) 1980 Jun 27 1989 Nov 20 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2165 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 35) 1987 Feb 2 1987 Apr 21 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2810 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Lord Young: Enterprise Unit) 1984 Jun 1 1989 Feb 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2010 Aerospace (European Airbus) (Part 2) 1986 Mar 18 1987 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1547 Ireland (Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland) (Part 3) 1982 Dec 2 1985 Sep 24 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 260
PREM19/1211 Economic policy (G7 Summit - London) (Part 17) 1984 Jun 8 1984 Nov 23 2014 Jan 3 Secret 254
PREM19/874 Poland (Internal situation; state of emergency - martial law; possible measures to be taken against Poland and Soviet Union; Polish debt rescheduling; Polish refugees) (Part 8) 1982 Feb 9 1982 Oct 19 2012 Dec 28 Secret 252
PREM19/538 National health (Advisory Group on the future of health services and medical education in London) 1980 Mar 12 1981 Feb 2 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 37
PREM19/198 Education (Future of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA)) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 4 1980 Jun 20 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 131
PREM19/2480 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's reception for industrial designers, January 1987) 1986 Jan 7 1987 Feb 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1988 Trade (Inward investment; review of overseas promotion) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 17 1986 Jul 17 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2668 European Policy (European Council meeting, Strasbourg, December 1989) (Part 35) 1989 Nov 3 1989 Dec 11 2016 Dec 30

Pages