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
PREM19/1693 Defence (Arms control) (Part 7) 1985 Aug 1 1986 Feb 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1694 Defence (Arms control) (Part 8) 1986 Mar 5 1986 Jun 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1695 Defence (Arms control) (Part 9) 1986 Jul 1 1986 Nov 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1444 Defence (Ballistic missile defence: United States Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI); UK participation in research programme) (Part 2) 1985 Jan 2 1985 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/1445 Defence (Ballistic missile defence: United States Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI); UK participation in research programme) (Part 3) 1985 May 30 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 285
PREM19/972 Defence (Briefing on military capabilities of Warsaw Pact) 1979 May 21 1983 Jan 19 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 25
PREM19/1435 Defence (Celebration of 40th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day) 1984 Oct 2 1985 May 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 189
PREM19/1439 Defence (Closures of and changes to Ministry of Defence (MOD) establishments: Prime Minister's visit to Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS), December 1985) 1985 May 19 1985 Dec 10 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 20
PREM19/975 Defence (Control of nuclear weapon systems deployed in UK: correspondence from David Owen) 1982 Dec 8 1983 Nov 18 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 74
PREM19/1438 Defence (Correspondence concerning the Army Medal Office) 1985 Jan 10 1985 Mar 7 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 37
PREM19/1189 Defence (Correspondence from Professor R.V. Jones) 1982 Jun 14 1984 Sep 5 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/161 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1980 Jan 17 2010 Dec 30 Secret 129
PREM19/1187 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 10) 1983 May 4 1984 Apr 12 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 121
PREM19/162 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 17 1980 Jan 25 2010 Dec 30 Secret 297
PREM19/163 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 25 1980 Oct 16 2010 Dec 30 Secret 248

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