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? File classification Pages Link to selectionssort descending
PREM19/925 Soviet Union (Trade relations: credit restrictions; United States sanctions against Siberian pipeline - impact on John Brown Engineering and other European companies; controls on strategic exports) (Part 2) 1982 Apr 19 1982 Nov 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 276
PREM19/926 Soviet Union (Relations between the UK and Soviet Union) (Part 1) 1979 May 23 1982 Apr 5 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 214
PREM19/927 Sport (Sporting relations with Argentina; possible withdrawal of UK teams from Football World Cup 1982) 1982 Apr 29 1982 Aug 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 19
PREM19/928 Trade (UK trading policies; non-tariff barriers; effects on UK industry of open trading system; General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Ministerial meeting) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 4 1982 Oct 28 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 235
PREM19/929 Trade (Difficulties of textile and clothing industries; closure of mills; low pay in the industry; policy on imports; quota issue) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 30 1982 Apr 23 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 207
PREM19/930 Trade unions (Trade union education and training: continuance of government grant) 1979 Dec 13 1982 Mar 1 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 71
PREM19/931 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail pay dispute) (Part 2) 1981 Aug 4 1982 Feb 9 2012 Dec 28 Secret 264
PREM19/932 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail pay dispute; investigation into 'flexible rostering' by Railway Staff National Tribunal under Lord McCarthy; railway finances review by Sir David Serpell) (Part 3) 1982 Feb 10 1982 May 7 2012 Dec 28 Secret 340
PREM19/933 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail unions' threatened industrial action; contingency planning) (Part 4) 1982 May 10 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 283
PREM19/934 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail unions' industrial action; contingency planning; McCarthy report on railway productivity and pay; rail fare increases) (Part 5) 1982 Jun 28 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 265
PREM19/935 Transport (Private finance for trunk road construction) 1982 Feb 22 1982 May 25 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 37
PREM19/936 Transport (Armitage Report on Lorries, People and the Environment; draft White Paper) (Part 1) 1979 May 15 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 197
PREM19/937 Transport (Fixed Channel Link (Channel Tunnel); economic considerations; discussions with French) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 24 1982 Feb 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 207
PREM19/938 United Nations (North/South Global Negotiations) 1980 Mar 17 1982 Jan 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 116
PREM19/939 United Nations (Election of United Nations Secretary-General) 1981 May 5 1982 Feb 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 106

Pages