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 descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2732 Hungary (Visits to the UK by Prime Ministers Karoly Grosz, (May 1988) and Miklos Nemeth (December 1989)) 1987 Jul 28 1989 Dec 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1505 Foreign Policy (British policy in the Antarctic) 1980 Dec 5 1985 Aug 16 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 197
PREM19/1169 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 38) 1984 Sep 3 1984 Oct 31 2014 Jan 3 Secret 262
PREM19/832 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 9) 1982 Jan 11 1982 Apr 14 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 289
PREM19/496 Iran (Internal situation; US and UK relations with Iran following hostage taking at American embassy in Tehran; demonstration in Grosvenor Square by Iranian students; sanctions) (Part 8) 1980 May 28 1981 Feb 17 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 302
PREM19/156 Commonwealth (Five Power Defence Arrangements: joint exercises; proposal from Prime Minister of Australia) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 11 1980 Oct 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 27
PREM19/2588 Australia (UK/Australian relations: internal situation) (Part 2) 1986 Jan 3 1989 Dec 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1768 Government Buildings (Edward Erdman Surveyors report on the redevelopment of the Bridge Street site) 1983 Feb 1 1986 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1425 China (Sino-British relations; defence sales) (Part 2) 1984 Mar 19 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 235
PREM19/1089 National health (Waste in the National Health Service (NHS); priorities and policies for health and personal social services) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1983 Mar 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 282
PREM19/752 European policy (European Council meeting in Brussels, June 1982: briefing papers) 1982 Jun 15 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 202
PREM19/417 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 3) 1980 Jun 10 1981 Nov 12 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 276
PREM19/2337 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; Community Care Review) (Part 11) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Apr 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3110 Parliament (Parliamentary scrutiny of European Community legislation: UK representation in European Community institutions; House of Commons links with the European Community) 1980 May 7 1990 Oct 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2467 Regional Policy (London Docklands Development Corporation: dismissal of John Mills as deputy chairman) 1985 Jul 18 1987 Dec 10 Retained Closed for 51 years

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