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
PREM19/130 Vietnam (Vietnamese boat people) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 15 1979 Jul 19 2009 Dec 30 Secret 304
PREM19/806 Industrial policy (Industrial action in the ports; future of Port of London Authority (PLA) and Mersey Docks and Harbour Company (MDHC)) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 18 1982 May 5 2012 Dec 28 Secret 124
PREM19/470 France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand, July and September 1981; Anglo-French Summit) (Part 2) 1981 Mar 20 1981 Sep 11 2011 Dec 30 Secret 262
PREM19/2463 Regional Policy (Inner Cities Initiative: action following report by Eric Sorensen; Ministerial and departmental responsibility for coordination and presentation of policy towards inner cities; Kenneth Clarke, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to assume coordination responsibility; designation of further Urban Development Corporations (UDCs)) (Part 11) 1987 Sep 23 1987 Nov 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1981 Sudan (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Sayed Sadiq al Mahdi: lunch with Prime Minister, 15 October 1986) 1985 Jul 22 1986 Dec 3 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2649 Education (Violence and discipline in schools) 1987 Nov 30 1989 Mar 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1802 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland) (Part 11) 1986 May 1 1986 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/49 Energy (UK/Australia nuclear safeguards agreement) 1979 Jun 27 1979 Jul 12 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 42
PREM19/1460 Economic policy (Policy towards privatisation: disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions) (Part 12 1984 Apr 4 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 387
PREM19/1124 Royal family (Royal visits to Kenya, India, and Bangladesh) 1983 Feb 23 1983 Jul 8 2013 Nov 20 Confidential 14
PREM19/725 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Versailles) (Part 9) 1982 Jun 6 1982 Jul 12 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 230
PREM19/390 Arts and amenities (Export licence for Leicester Codex by Leonardo da Vinci, following purchase by Dr Armand Hammer) 1980 Oct 22 1981 Feb 11 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 39
PREM19/2376 Parliament (House of Commons procedure: Select Committees) (Part 8) 1986 Jul 3 1987 Jan 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/361 Security (Case of Miss Lamble) 1979 Dec 7 1980 Jan 4 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2509 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 10) 1987 Nov 2 1988 Mar 31 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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