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
PREM19/1717 Economic policy (Financial Services Bill: the Stock Exchange; commercial fraud; Roskill Report on Fraud Trials) (Part 2) 1985 Oct 1 1986 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 268
PREM19/1374 Security (Circumstances surrounding death of a Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) employee) 1984 Apr 4 1984 Sep 26 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/701 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 7) 1982 Jan 30 1982 Apr 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 189
PREM19/365 Social Services (Rayner study on arrangements for paying social security benefits) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 22 1980 Sep 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 282
PREM19/2982 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS): economic and monetary union) (Part 6) 1989 Nov 16 1990 Apr 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2174 Foreign Policy (Future inward and outward State visits; visits by members of the Royal Family) 1985 Sep 1 1988 Aug 5 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/133 European policy (European Council, Dublin Nov 1979 - briefing) 1979 Nov 19 1979 Nov 24 2009 Dec 30 Secret 418
PREM19/1634 Security (Security Commission: review of security procedures; appointments; cases referred; 'Three Advisers' on appeals against positive vetting clearance refusals - terms of reference and procedures) 1981 Apr 1 1985 Sep 5 2014 Dec 30 Secret 253
PREM19/957 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (chaired by Lord Franks): documentation used by Prime Minister in preparation for 25-26 January 1983 debate in House of Commons on Committee's report) 1983 Jan 14 1983 Jan 26 2013 Aug 1 Secret 140
PREM19/2868 Soviet Union (Visit to the UK by President Mikhail Gorbachev, April 1984: part 3. Orderable at item level.) (Part 3) 1989 Jan 3 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/52 European policy (European Council, Dublin Nov 1979) (Part 2) 1979 Oct 19 1979 Dec 7 2009 Dec 30 Secret 300
PREM19/2168 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 38) 1987 Dec 2 1988 May 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2823 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Brussels for NATO Summit, December 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Nov 19 1989 Dec 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2013 Afghanistan (Internal situation) (Part 7) 1986 May 8 1988 Mar 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1550 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 9) 1985 Jul 1 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30

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