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 Pagessort ascending Link to selections
PREM19/953 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 35) 1983 Sep 19 1983 Dec 30 2013 Aug 1 13 Secret 347
PREM19/29 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 11 2009-12-30 Secret 347
PREM19/404 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; Civil Service pay dispute; industrial action; establishment of independent inquiry) (Part 7) 1981 Jul 10 1981 Nov 5 2011 Dec 30 Secret 347
PREM19/1168 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 37) 1984 Apr 1 1984 Aug 31 2014-01-03 1 Top Secret 345
PREM19/1026 European policy (European Council meeting, Athens, December 1983: briefing papers) (Part 13A) 1983 Nov 8 1983 Nov 30 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 345
PREM19/824 Lebanon (Internal situation; Israeli/Lebanese hostilities; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 16 1982 Jul 10 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 345
PREM19/597 South Africa (Situation in Namibia) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 1 1981 Jul 20 2011 Dec 30 Secret 344
PREM19/843 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 9) 1981 Dec 11 1982 Apr 21 2012 Dec 28 Secret 344
PREM19/1527 Home Affairs (Football hooliganism: behaviour of British football fans abroad; Bradford City stadium fire and European Cup Final disaster in Brussels, May 1985) (Part 2) 1985 Mar 27 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 344
PREM19/1534 Hungary (UK/Hungarian relations: Prime Minister's visit to Hungary, February 1984) (Part 2) 1984 Feb 1 1985 Jan 16 2014 Dec 30 Secret 343
PREM19/713 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 17) 1982 Jun 8 1982 Jul 14 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 343
PREM19/113 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 8) 1979 Oct 11 1979 Oct 31 2009 Dec 30 Secret 342
PREM19/1126 Saudi Arabia (Saudi/UK relations; internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 9 1983 Dec 23 2013 Aug 1 7 Secret 342
PREM19/734 Energy (Energy policy; nuclear power policy; fast reactor policy; Sizewell Inquiry; oil depletion policy; refinery and dispersal strategy; Select Committee report on nuclear power programme) (Part 6) 1980 Dec 11 1982 Jan 20 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 341
PREM19/1647 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations) (Part 4) 1985 Jan 3 1985 Oct 25 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 341

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