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
PREM19/61 Government machinery (Rayner review) (Part 2) 1979 Jul 16 1979 Sep 14 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 124
PREM19/1410 Aerospace (Rolls-Royce V2500 engine project) 1984 Jan 31 1984 May 17 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 29
PREM19/1074 Lebanon (Internal situation; Israeli/Lebanese hostilities; Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 3) 1982 Jul 12 1983 Sep 5 2013 Aug 1 Secret 423
PREM19/737 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 13) 1981 Dec 2 1982 Feb 3 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 252
PREM19/402 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; Civil Service pay dispute; industrial action; revised terms of reference for proposed independent inquiry) (Part 5) 1981 May 19 1981 Jun 8 2011 Dec 30 Secret 189
PREM19/2316 Manpower (Special employment measures: Income Support for 16-18 year olds) (Part 16) 1987 May 5 1987 Aug 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3052 Ireland (Renewal of Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978; consideration of section 12 (detention); reviews of the Act; Government's security policy in Northern Ireland) 1980 Jun 25 1990 Nov 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2327 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 17) 1987 Oct 2 1988 Feb 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1671 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 6) 1986 Aug 1 1986 Nov 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1330 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 9) 1984 Apr 3 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3 Secret 270
PREM19/992 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 24) 1983 Jun 6 1983 Aug 25 2013 Aug 1 Secret 431
PREM19/657 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (Franks): documentation seen by PM, extracted from PREM19 files and copied to the Committee) (Part 2) 1982 Jan 7 1982 Apr 2 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 119
PREM19/317 New Hebrides (Independence; security situation; disturbances on Santo; Anglo/French consultations; dispatch of military forces) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 18 1980 Jul 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 64
PREM19/3079 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 26) 1990 Aug 30 1990 Aug 31 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/2210 Government Machinery (Possible transfer of functions between departments) 1987 Jan 30 1987 May 21 2015 Dec 30

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