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 releasesort ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2512 Security (Sunday Times articles on the death of Stephen Ward and his association with M15 at the time of the Profumo affair: book by Phillip Knightley and Caroline Kennedy 'An Affair of State') 1982 Nov 29 1982 Nov 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2136 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power; revision of report by Advisory Council on Science and Technology (ACOST) on industrial impact of Sizewell 'B' decision; extension of Joint European Torus (JET) project on nuclear fusion; disposal of UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) shareholding in National Nuclear Corporation; fast reactor programme) (Part 12) 1987 Dec 1 1988 May 24 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2473 Royal Family (The Prince of Wales' Special Projects Unit) 1987 Jul 29 1987 Sep 1 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2566 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, July 1987) (Part 1) 1987 Jun 12 1987 Jul 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2275 Ireland (Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland) (Part 4) 1985 Nov 6 1988 Jan 27 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2513 Security (Case of Michael Bettaney and the ensuing review of the Security Service) 1986 Jun 2 1988 Nov 8 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2474 Royal Family (Visits by the Queen to security services) 1980 Nov 4 1988 Apr 28 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2036 China (UK/Chinese relations) (Part 4) 1986 Jun 2 1987 Jun 19 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2567 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, July 1987) (Part 2) 1987 Jul 24 1987 Nov 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2276 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 22) 1986 Nov 1 1987 Oct 31 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2514 Security (Allegations against the Security Service) 1977 Jul 16 1987 Mar 18 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2138 Energy (Future of British National Oil Corporation (BNOC): proposed sale of British Petroleum (BP) assets; Kuwaiti holding in BP) (Part 6) 1986 Mar 24 1988 Dec 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1367 Royal family (Relations between the media and members of the Royal Family; possible legal measures to prevent harassment) 1984 Jan 3 1984 Jan 18 Retained Retained
PREM19/2475 Saudi Arabia (Internal situation: relations with UK) 1986 May 1 1987 Feb 26 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2796 Parliament (Boundary Commission reviews of Parliamentary constituencies in Wales and the UK) (Part 2) 1986 Jul 11 1989 Jan 18 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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