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
PREM19/1240 (annex) France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand; briefing for May 1982 meeting of Franco-British Council in Edinburgh) (Part 3) 1981 Sep 11 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3 Secret 171
PREM19/904 Science and Technology (Presentation on information technology) 1982 Feb 18 1982 May 20 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 47
PREM19/268 Industrial policy (Consultations with Trades Union Congress (TUC) on economic strategy; Prime Minister’s meetings with TUC representatives) (Part 3) 1980 Aug 20 1980 Oct 16 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 227
PREM19/1161 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment) (Part 9) 1983 Feb 1 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 400
PREM19/2133 Elections (Election procedure) (Part 3) 1987 May 13 1988 Mar 31 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2379 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 17) 1987 Nov 9 1988 Sep 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1621 Security (Publication of 'British Intelligence and Covert Action' by Jonathan Bloch and Patrick Fitzgerald: security issues; Bloch's UK refugee residency status; protection of intelligence identities) 1983 Mar 9 1985 Oct 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/372 Soviet Union (Political and propaganda use made by USSR of Moscow Olympic Games) 1980 Apr 22 1980 Apr 26 Retained Unknown
PREM19/528 Mexico (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister, Dr Jorge Castadena, March 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Jan 19 1981 May 21 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 24
PREM19/188 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Venice) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 3 1980 Jun 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 265
PREM19/1940 Security (Letter to Prime Minister from Dr Anatoly Fedoseyev about the economy) 1986 Jan 22 1986 Feb 17 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2287 Japan (Visit to UK by Yasuhiro Nakasone, Prime Minister of Japan, June 1984) (Part 1) 1984 Feb 16 1987 Oct 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1536 (UK/Indian relations: situation in Punjab; activities of Sikh extremists; proposed visit to UK by Rajiv Gandhi in June 1985) (Part 4) 1983 Mar 4 1985 May 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2997 Germany (Anglo-German relations) (Part 5) 1989 Sep 1 1990 Sep 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1081 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 17) 1983 Sep 19 1983 Oct 31 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 164

Pages