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 classification Pagessort ascending Link to selections
PREM19/355 Royal Family (Duke of Windsor’s papers: allegations by Duc de Grantmesnil that they were stolen by secret agents) 1979 May 10 1980 Jun 18 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2507 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 8) 1987 Jul 2 1987 Sep 22 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1657 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington and New York, February 1981) (Part 2) 1981 Feb 20 1985 Oct 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1316 Ministers (Ministers’ outside interests; position of Ministers on appointment to office; membership at Lloyds; Questions of Procedure for Ministers) (Part 1) 1979 May 9 1984 Sep 17 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2270 Ireland (Correspondence with Reverend William Martin Smyth MP) 1987 Nov 2 1988 Mar 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2986 European Policy (Calls on the Prime Minister by the President of the European Parliament) 1979 Oct 30 1990 Mar 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2188 Government Buildings (Refurbishing of Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms) (Part 1) 1980 Jun 1 1988 Aug 12 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2065 Defence (UK strategic nuclear deterrent) (Part 7) 1985 Feb 1 1987 Jun 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2172 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 7) 1986 Nov 3 1987 Nov 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2833 Royal Family (Visits to Northern Ireland by the Duke and Duchess of Kent) 1980 Mar 31 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1834 Local Government (Correspondence from Sir John Sainsbury on planning controls: general planning enquiries) (Part 3) 1986 Jul 23 1986 Dec 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2017 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 42) 1987 Sep 7 1988 Dec 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2678 Food (Food safety) (Part 2) 1989 Apr 3 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1755 European Policy (European Institute of Public Administration at Maastricht) 1981 Nov 19 1986 Aug 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2601 Civil Service (Position of the Head of the Civil Service) 1987 Jun 25 1987 Jun 25 2016 Dec 30

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