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 ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/694 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 4) 1981 Nov 17 1982 Feb 26 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 154
PREM19/975 Defence (Control of nuclear weapon systems deployed in UK: correspondence from David Owen) 1982 Dec 8 1983 Nov 18 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 74
PREM19/695 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 5) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Sep 9 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 126
PREM19/387 Afghanistan (Internal Situation) (Part 5) 1980 Apr 10 1981 Sep 14 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 333
PREM19/791 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 3) 1982 Oct 6 1982 Nov 6 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 228
PREM19/321 Parliament (Defence Committee inquiry into Polaris successor systems) 1980 May 9 1980 Oct 17 2010 Dec 30 Top Secret 14
PREM19/417 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 3) 1980 Jun 10 1981 Nov 12 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 276
PREM19/1635 Security (Prime Minister's visit to Century House (SIS headquarters), September 1984) 1984 Sep 5 1984 Oct 8 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 10
PREM19/1505 Foreign Policy (British policy in the Antarctic) 1980 Dec 5 1985 Aug 16 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 197
PREM19/979 Defence (Modernisation of Theatre Nuclear Forces (TNF) in Europe; proposed basing of United States Ground Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCM) in the UK; Geneva talks on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF)) (Part 3) 1982 Oct 20 1983 Sep 21 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 353
PREM19/2359 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 14) 1988 Apr 5 1988 Sep 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2230 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 19) 1986 Nov 18 1987 Sep 9 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2535 Soviet Union (Domestic scene: Soviet leadership succession (Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko, Gorbachev)) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 20 1987 Aug 5 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2536 Soviet Union (Soviet visa applications) 1979 Jun 13 1987 Jan 12 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2360 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding: Hill-Norton Committee Report on Hull Forms for Warships ('short fat ships')) (Part 2) 1986 Oct 14 1988 Jul 27 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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