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
PREM19/1207 Economic policy (G7 Summit - London) (Part 15) 1984 Mar 2 1984 May 21 2014 Jan 3 2 Secret 368
PREM19/502 Ireland (Meetings with Lord Brookeborough and Lord Moyola to discuss the security situation in Northern Ireland) 1980 May 8 1981 Feb 23 2011 Dec 30 2 Confidential 29
PREM19/2123 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: national curriculum; education in Scotland and Wales; Education Reform Bill; financial delegation; Government response to Education, Science and Arts Select Committee report) (Part 16) 1987 Nov 2 1987 Dec 30 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/2450 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris, November 1987: administrative arrangements) 1987 Nov 1 1987 Nov 23 2016 Nov 7 2
PREM19/13 Deaths (Lord Mountbatten) 1979 Aug 27 1979 Dec 21 2009 Dec 30 2 Restricted 216
PREM19/823 Japan (Prime Minister's visit to Japan, September 1982; proposed technology agreement) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 28 1982 Sep 20 2012 Dec 28 2 Confidential 368
PREM19/1293 Ireland (Hunger strike at the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland) (Part 6) 1981 Sep 1 1984 Mar 5 2014 Jan 3 3
PREM19/81 Ireland (Northern Ireland situation) (Part 2) 1979 Aug 27 1979 Sep 28 2010 Nov 10 3 Secret 184
PREM19/1617 Royal Family (Queen's visit to army units in Germany, May 1984: possible threat from Irish terrorism) 1984 May 16 1984 May 21 2014 Dec 30 3 Secret 5
PREM19/622 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 11) 1982 Apr 27 1982 Apr 29 2012 Dec 28 3 Secret 288
PREM19/274 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; sanctions) (Part 4) 1980 Jan 9 1980 Jan 30 2010 Dec 30 3 Secret 213
PREM19/1968 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 11) 1986 Jul 1 1986 Jul 15 2016 Feb 19 3
PREM19/814 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 10) 1981 Aug 24 1982 Jan 27 2012 Dec 28 3 Secret 262
PREM19/1969 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 12) 1986 Jul 16 1986 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19 3
PREM19/2116 Education (New blood for research and information technology: follow-up to the Alvey Report on Advanced Information Technology; international collaboration; the EUREKA programme) 1982 Nov 30 1987 Sep 4 2016 Nov 7 3

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