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
PREM19/1987 Trade (Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD); review of ECGD's status; financial position) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 17 1986 May 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2491 Security (Terrorist activity and extremism in Great Britain) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 3 1987 Sep 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/846 Ministers (Request for release of 1957 report on the burden on Ministers) 1982 Jul 19 1982 Aug 11 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 18
PREM19/1705 Economic policy (Economic strategy: pay and prices; economic statistics) (Part 26) 1984 Mar 15 1985 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 Secret 385
PREM19/510 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 20 1981 Nov 11 2011 Dec 30 Secret - UK eyes A 211
PREM19/165 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 8) 1980 Jan 29 1980 Feb 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 176
PREM19/1626 Security (Leak of information on sinking of Argentine warship General Belgrano in 1982 to Tam Dalyell MP: confession and trial of Clive Ponting) (Part 1) 1984 Aug 10 1985 Feb 2 2014 Dec 30 Secret 294
PREM19/1286 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 16) 1984 Apr 10 1984 Jun 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2134 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power; the Sizewell Report) (Part 10) 1986 Jun 2 1987 Jan 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1125 Royal family (Prince of Wales' article, 'Help for Self-Help', for publication in The Economist) 1983 Mar 11 1983 Mar 18 Closed until 2024-01-01 Unknown
PREM19/85 Ireland (Information policy - correspondence with HRH Prince of Wales) 1979 Nov 16 1979 Dec 17 2020 Jan 1 Unknown
PREM19/766 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Schmidt in Bonn, November 1981) (Part 3) 1982 Oct 2 1982 Nov 19 2012 Dec 28 Secret 68
PREM19/1541 Industrial policy (Industrial action in the oil industry: possible tanker drivers' strike; contingency planning) 1979 Nov 30 1985 Oct 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 187
PREM19/431 Economic policy (Policy towards small firms) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 8 1981 Apr 7 2011 Dec 30 Secret 233
PREM19/1205 Economic policy (Future of International Computers Limited (ICL)) (Part 2) 1981 Mar 10 1984 Feb 16 2014 Jan 3 Secret 291

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