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
PREM19/2531 Soviet Union (Policy towards the Soviet Union) (Part 1) 1987 Aug 1 1987 Sep 8 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2328 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 18) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Dec 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2753 Japan (Prime Minister's visit to Japan, September 1989) (Part 3a) 1989 Apr 27 1989 Sep 15 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2534 Soviet Union (Soviet military expenditure and capabilities) 1979 May 24 1988 Dec 7 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2493 Security (Links between Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and other terrorist organisations: People's Front for the Liberation of Palestine operations in London) 1979 Sep 28 1988 Mar 17 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1265 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 14) 1984 May 1 1984 Jun 30 2014 Jan 3 9 Secret UK eyes 373
PREM19/510 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 20 1981 Nov 11 2011 Dec 30 Secret - UK eyes A 211
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
PREM19/1446 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 5) 1985 Jan 2 1985 Oct 25 2015 Jul 16 Secret 357
PREM19/639 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 28) 1982 Jul 21 1982 Aug 31 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 224
PREM19/167 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 10) 1980 Jul 2 1980 Oct 22 2010 Dec 30 Secret 241
PREM19/1198 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 12) 1984 Mar 1 1984 Mar 14 2014 Jan 3 Secret 388
PREM19/44 Energy (British National Oil Corporation & BP shares) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 3 1979 Sep 12 2009 Dec 30 Secret 174
PREM19/606 Zimbabwe (Internal situation; aid; relations with South Africa) 1980 Apr 17 1981 Nov 2 2011 Dec 30 Secret 258
PREM19/1639 Social Services (Reform of social security: pensions, housing benefit and supplementary benefit; child support) (Part 2) 1985 Apr 4 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 251

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