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
PREM19/975 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
PREM19/977 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 9) 1982 Jul 6 1983 Apr 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 221
PREM19/978 Defence (Future UK defence policy; the health of the NATO Alliance; review of NATO) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 5 1983 Oct 3 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 246
PREM19/980 Defence (Nuclear release procedures; understandings between the USA and UK on use of nuclear weapons and bases; Anglo/German defence understanding) (Part 3) 1982 Feb 26 1983 Mar 4 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/981 Disasters (Collapse of Norwegian oil rig 'Alexander Kielland' in North Sea: PM's message of condolence to Norwegian Prime Minister; representations from families of British victims) 1980 Mar 28 1980 Aug 11 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 43
PREM19/982 Economic policy (Abolition of Economic Planning Councils) 1979 Jul 17 1979 Jul 25 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 45
PREM19/983 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 21) 1982 Oct 1 1983 Jan 24 2013 Aug 1
PREM19/984 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 22) 1983 Jan 24 1983 Jun 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 272
PREM19/986 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 24) 1983 Aug 1 1983 Oct 28 2013 Aug 1 Secret 320
PREM19/987 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 25) 1983 Nov 1 1983 Nov 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 312
PREM19/988 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 6) 1982 Jul 26 1983 Jan 18 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 268
PREM19/990 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 8) 1983 Oct 3 1983 Dec 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 153
PREM19/991 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 21) 1983 Jan 21 1983 Feb 7 2013 Aug 1 Secret 350
PREM19/992 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 24) 1983 Jun 6 1983 Aug 25 2013 Aug 1 Secret 431
PREM19/993 Economic policy (Taxation of savings; mortgage interest tax relief; taxation of husband and wife) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 14 1983 Dec 23 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 411

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