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
PREM19/2003 VWindward Islands (UK/Windward Island relations) 1985 Jan 31 1985 Feb 15 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2677 Food (Food safety) (Part 1) 1989 Jan 30 1989 Mar 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1824 Lebanon (United States concerns) 1983 Sep 15 1986 Apr 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1481 European Policy (European Strategic Research Programme in Information Technology (ESPRIT)) 1983 Nov 22 1984 Mar 19 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 76
PREM19/1146 Transport (Railway policy) (Part 6) 1982 Oct 7 1983 Apr 25 2013 Aug 1 Secret 184
PREM19/635 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 24) 1982 Jun 12 1982 Jun 16 2012 Dec 28 Secret 202
PREM19/2390 Posts and Telecommunications (Pay negotiations in the Post Office and British Telecom (BT): industrial action) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 3 1987 Aug 14 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/810 Industrial policy (Impact of government on industry; Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Trenchard, Minister of State, Department of Industry) 1979 Jul 6 1982 Nov 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 72
PREM19/294 Memoirs (BBC programmes based on Lord Mountbatten’s memoirs) 1980 Jan 16 1980 Nov 11 2015 Jun 23
PREM19/1636 Security (Leak to press on expulsion of Soviet Embassy officials in April 1985) 1985 Apr 18 1985 Jun 17 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2530 Soviet Union (Prime Minister's visit to Soviet Union, March-April 1987: briefing for Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1987 Apr 1 1987 Jun 26 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1745 European Policy (European Council meeting, The Hague, June 1986) (Part 25) 1985 Apr 23 1986 Jul 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1402 USA (Visit to UK by US Ambassador to the United Nations, Mrs Jeane Kirkpatrick, April 1984: meeting with Prime Minister) 1984 Mar 23 1984 Oct 16 2014 Jan 3 Secret 67
PREM19/1066 Industrial policy (Merger of Alcan Aluminium (UK) and British Aluminium; coal supplies) 1982 Jul 28 1983 Nov 30 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 106
PREM19/554 Parliament (Representation of the People Bill; disqualification of prisoners from election to parliament) 1981 May 14 1981 Jul 31 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 31

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