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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2638 Economic Policy (VAT zero rates: infraction proceedings; European Court of Justice judgment) (Part 1) 1982 Feb 12 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1476 Environmental Affairs (Prime Minister's lunch with conservationists) 1985 Oct 21 1985 Nov 26 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 46
PREM19/1141 Sport (Invitation to Princess Anne to become President of British Olympic Association) 1983 Mar 4 1983 Apr 12 Closed until 2024-01-01 Unknown
PREM19/1083 Local government (Industrial action in water industry; contingency planning) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 13 1983 Feb 8 2013 Aug 1 Secret 240
PREM19/3084 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 31) 1990 Oct 9 1990 Oct 21 2017 Jul 20 Top Secret - Cab One 324
PREM19/746 European policy (European Commission Directive under Article 90 of Treaty of Rome concerning transparency of financial relations between member states and public undertakings) 1980 Sep 10 1982 Sep 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 15
PREM19/123 South Korea (Call on MT by South Korean Presidential envoy) 1979 May 28 1979 Jun 28 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 26
PREM19/2200 Government Machinery (Future of Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) and nuclear Royal Ordnance Factories; privatisation of Royal Ordnance Factories) 1980 Sep 22 1988 Jul 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/414 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 4) 1980 Oct 17 1981 Mar 6 2011 Dec 30 Secret 240
PREM19/3199 Turkey (Prime Minister's visit to Turkey to attend the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign, April 1990) (Part 2) 1990 Feb 28 1990 Aug 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2499 Security (RAF fixed telecommunications system) 1988 Mar 29 1988 Jul 21 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1740 Energy (Activities and role of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (AEA)) 1984 Mar 2 1986 Mar 11 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1397 Trade (Britain’s international trade policies; problems with Spain and Japan; rolling back protectionism; export promotion) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 4 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1001 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 10) 1983 Apr 22 1983 Sep 16 2013 Aug 1 Secret 108
PREM19/2574 Zambia (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Kebby Musokatwane, September 1987) 1980 May 30 1987 Sep 7 2016 Jul 21

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