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
PREM19/1245a Germany (Visits to UK by Chancellor Helmut Kohl; Anglo-German Summit) (Part 8A) 1983 Oct 11 1984 Aug 29 2014 Jan 3 2
PREM19/1245b Germany (Visits to UK by Chancellor Helmut Kohl; Anglo-German Summit) (Part 8B) 1983 Oct 11 1984 Aug 29 2014 Jan 3 2
PREM19/2132 Elections (Election procedure) (Part 2) 1987 Jan 5 1987 May 12 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/450 Egypt (Visit to UK by President Sadat, August 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Feb 25 1981 Aug 10 2011 Dec 30 2 Secret 107
PREM19/13 Deaths (Lord Mountbatten) 1979 Aug 27 1979 Dec 21 2009 Dec 30 2 Restricted 216
PREM19/529 Middle East (Arms sales and military assistance to Middle Eastern countries) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 6 1981 Mar 31 2011 Dec 30 2 Secret 209
PREM19/1911 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to South Korea and to Japan for Tokyo Economic Summit, May 1986: administrative arrangements) 1985 Dec 4 1986 Jul 14 2016 Feb 19 2
PREM19/803 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland (BL)) (Part 6) 1981 Nov 1 1982 Jul 29 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 326
PREM19/1025 European policy (European Council meeting, Athens, December 1983) (Part 13) 1982 Oct 15 1983 Dec 8 2013 Aug 1 2 Secret 181
PREM19/864 Parliament (Legislative programme 1981-1982 and 1982-1983) (Part 8) 1981 Jul 30 1982 Feb 25 2012 Dec 28 2 Confidential 178
PREM19/770 Gibraltar (Policy) (Part 2) 1982 Feb 11 1982 Oct 28 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 189
PREM19/1850 Memorials (WPC Yvonne Fletcher memorial) 1984 May 1 1985 Feb 13 2015 Dec 30 2
PREM19/1186 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 4) 1984 Mar 2 1984 Dec 31 2014 Jan 3 2 Confidential 454
PREM19/2019 Arts and Amenities (Prime Minister's meeting with Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza to discuss possible siting in UK of the Thyssen Collection) (Part 2) 1988 Jun 2 1988 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/1394 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; visit to UK by Mikhail Gorbachev, member of Politburo, December 1984; meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 3) 1984 Jun 4 1984 Dec 22 2014 Jan 3 2 Top Secret 411

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