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
PREM19/870 Poland (Intelligence) 1982 Jan 8 1982 Feb 22 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2279 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 25) 1988 Sep 1 1988 Sep 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2983 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS): economic and monetary union) (Part 7) 1990 May 1 1990 Jun 27 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
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
PREM19/2473 Royal Family (The Prince of Wales' Special Projects Unit) 1987 Jul 29 1987 Sep 1 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2280 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 26) 1988 Oct 1 1988 Dec 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2156 European Policy (European Council meeting, Brussels, June 1987) (Part 26) 1986 May 1 1987 Jul 1 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2984 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS): economic and monetary union) (Part 8) 1990 Jul 1 1990 Oct 31 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
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
PREM19/2566 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, July 1987) (Part 1) 1987 Jun 12 1987 Jul 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2159 European Policy (European Council meeting, Brussels, February 1988) (Part 28) 1988 Jan 21 1988 Feb 22 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1371 Security (Irish terrorist activity in Great Britain) (Part 1A) 1979 May 10 1982 Aug 11 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2514 Security (Allegations against the Security Service) 1977 Jul 16 1987 Mar 18 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2475 Saudi Arabia (Internal situation: relations with UK) 1986 May 1 1987 Feb 26 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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