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 classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1582 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity policy: gas industry privatisation; industrial energy policy) (Part 10) 1984 Sep 15 1985 May 24 2014 Dec 30 Secret 251
PREM19/933 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail unions' threatened industrial action; contingency planning) (Part 4) 1982 May 10 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 283
PREM19/441 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 8) 1981 Mar 18 1981 Aug 17 2011 Dec 30 Secret 337
PREM19/1155 Foreign policy (Strategy meetings: foreign affairs and defence) (Part 1) 1983 Apr 22 1983 Dec 22 2013 Aug 1 Secret 417
PREM19/641 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 30) 1982 Oct 1 1982 Oct 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 203
PREM19/189 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Venice) (Part 4) [Part 5 of this file has been destroyed] 1980 Jun 20 1980 Aug 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 189
PREM19/1029 European policy (European Council meeting, Stuttgart, June 1983) (Part 16 (incorporating Part 14)) 1982 Nov 1 1983 Jun 23 2013 Aug 1 3 Secret 266
PREM19/515 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 5) 1981 Jun 4 1981 Sep 8 2011 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/1424 Chile (UK/Chilean relations: policy on arms sales) 1979 Sep 17 1985 Dec 9 2014 Dec 30 Secret 328
PREM19/282 Ireland (Hunger strike at Maze Prison, Northern Ireland; the ‘Dirty Protest’) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 15 1980 Dec 10 2010 Dec 30 2 Secret 245
PREM19/32 Economic policy (Privatization) (Part 2) 1979 Jul 23 1979 Dec 19 2009 Dec 30 Secret 115
PREM19/609 Vatican (Visit to UK by the Pope, May-June 1982) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 10 1982 Jun 9 2011 Dec 30 19 Secret 153
PREM19/873 Poland (Internal situation; state of emergency - martial law; possible measures to be taken against Poland and Soviet Union; Day of Solidarity with the Polish People) (Part 7) 1982 Jan 22 1982 Feb 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 292
PREM19/381 USA (Visit to UK by Dr Harold Brown, US Secretary of Defense, June 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 May 28 1980 Aug 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 74
PREM19/250 Government Machinery (Future of Civil Service Department; integration with the Treasury; Select Committee consideration) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 7 1980 Nov 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 549

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