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
PREM19/763 Germany (Chancellor Schmidt's visit to the UK, May 1981: meetings with the Prime Minister) (Part 3) 1980 Nov 13 1982 Feb 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 215
PREM19/1106 Prime Minister (Arab League Delegation visit to London; inclusion of representative of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO); meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1983 Mar 2 1983 Mar 27 2013 Aug 1 Secret 176
PREM19/641 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 30) 1982 Oct 1 1982 Oct 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 203
PREM19/169 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 12) 1980 Nov 11 1980 Nov 24 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/515 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 5) 1981 Jun 4 1981 Sep 8 2011 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/857 Nationalised industries (Proposed acquisition by British Steel Corporation of US steel company, Kaiser Steel) 1981 Dec 11 1982 Nov 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 96
PREM19/1200 Economic policy (International banking system) (Part 3) 1983 Sep 1 1984 Feb 24 2014 Jan 3 Secret 338
PREM19/1542 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 11) 1984 Apr 5 1985 Jan 14 2014 Dec 30 Secret 251
PREM19/1765 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Helmut Kohl) (Part 15) 1983 Nov 11 1986 May 28 2015 Dec 30 Secret 276
PREM19/735 Energy (Energy policy; nuclear power policy; fast reactor policy; Sizewell Inquiry; oil depletion policy) (Part 7) 1982 Jan 26 1982 Oct 14 2012 Dec 28 Secret 255
PREM19/263 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 4) 1980 Feb 14 1980 Apr 11 2010 Dec 30 Secret 215
PREM19/951 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 33) 1983 Mar 3 1983 Apr 30 2013 Aug 1 9 Secret 322
PREM19/1295 Italy (MT’s visits to Italy; Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 2) 1980 Oct 29 1984 Feb 2 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 283
PREM19/1169 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 38) 1984 Sep 3 1984 Oct 31 2014 Jan 3 Secret 262
PREM19/487 India (Prime Minister's visit to India, April 1981) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 14 1981 Apr 19 2011 Dec 30 1 Secret 357

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