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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2132 Elections (Election procedure) (Part 2) 1987 Jan 5 1987 May 12 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/1394 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; visit to UK by Mikhail Gorbachev, member of Politburo, December 1984; meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 3) 1984 Jun 4 1984 Dec 22 2014 Jan 3 2 Top Secret 411
PREM19/1025 European policy (European Council meeting, Athens, December 1983) (Part 13) 1982 Oct 15 1983 Dec 8 2013 Aug 1 2 Secret 181
PREM19/864 Parliament (Legislative programme 1981-1982 and 1982-1983) (Part 8) 1981 Jul 30 1982 Feb 25 2012 Dec 28 2 Confidential 178
PREM19/1186 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 4) 1984 Mar 2 1984 Dec 31 2014 Jan 3 2 Confidential 454
PREM19/1970 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 13) 1986 Aug 1 1986 Nov 28 2016 Feb 19 1
PREM19/1572 Mozambique (Visits to UK by President Samora Machel: meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Jun 24 1985 Sep 28 2014 Dec 30 1
PREM19/1187 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 10) 1983 May 4 1984 Apr 12 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 121
PREM19/1058 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 9) 1983 Oct 1 1983 Oct 31 2013 Aug 1 1 Top Secret 322
PREM19/817 Ireland (Northern Ireland Security Co-ordinator: appointments of Sir Maurice Oldfield and Sir Brooks Richards; post then left in abeyance) 1979 Sep 18 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret - Cabinet 2 146
PREM19/498 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland; force levels) (Part 8) 1980 Aug 12 1981 Feb 25 2011 Dec 30 1 Top Secret - UK eyes A 224
PREM19/2320 Manpower (Special employment measures: White Paper 'Employment for the 1990s') (Part 20) 1988 Nov 1 1988 Dec 29 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2449 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris for ratification of the Channel Tunnel Treaty, July 1987: administrative arrangements) 1987 Jul 7 1987 Jul 30 2016 Nov 7 1
PREM19/143 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 1) 1979 May 23 1980 Nov 6 2010 Dec 30 1 Confidential 248
PREM19/1237 Foreign policy (Prime Minister's visit to the Far East in September 1984: Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Indonesia) 1984 Aug 3 1984 Nov 23 2014 Jan 3 1

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