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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2052 Defence (Armed Forces pay; Service doctors' and dentists' pay; London weighting) (Part 3) 1986 Apr 11 1987 Jul 16 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1441 Defence (Armed Forces' pay: pay review body report; Service doctors' and dentists' pay; local and overseas allowance; London weighting) (Part 2) 1982 Mar 11 1985 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 270
PREM19/692 Defence (Armed forces' pay; service medical and dental officers' pay) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1982 Feb 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 244
PREM19/212 Defence (Arms control) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 15 2010 Dec 30 1 Top Secret 199
PREM19/213 Defence (Arms control) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 18 1979 Aug 24 2010 Dec 30 2 Secret 231
PREM19/693 Defence (Arms control) (Part 3) 1979 Sep 3 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 258
PREM19/973 Defence (Arms control) (Part 4) 1983 Jan 25 1983 Nov 23 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret UK Eyes A 261
PREM19/1184 Defence (Arms control) (Part 5) 1983 Dec 8 1984 Dec 14 2014 Jan 3 Secret 274
PREM19/2053 Defence (Arms control) (Part 10) 1986 Dec 1 1987 Mar 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2054 Defence (Arms control) (Part 11) 1987 Mar 11 1987 Apr 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2055 Defence (Arms control) (Part 12) 1987 May 1 1987 Jun 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2056 Defence (Arms control) (Part 13) 1987 Jun 15 1987 Nov 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2057 Defence (Arms control) (Part 14) 1987 Dec 1 1988 Sep 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1442 Defence (Arms control) (Part 6A) 1985 Mar 8 1985 Jul 29 2014 Dec 30 3 Secret 231
PREM19/1443 Defence (Arms control) (Part 6B) 1985 Jan 4 1985 Feb 15 2014 Dec 30

Pages