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
PREM19/206 Energy (Future of British National Oil Corporation (BNOC); proposed sale of British Petroleum (BP) assets; Petroleum and Submarine Pipeline Bill) (Part 3) 1979 Dec 27 1980 Jun 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 198
PREM19/2522 Social Services (Unemployment Benefit: availability for work test; restriction of benefit payments to European Community nationals; low income statistics) (Part 5) 1986 Oct 28 1988 Nov 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2018 Arts and Amenities (Prime Minister's meeting with Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza to discuss possible siting in UK of the Thyssen Collection) (Part 1) 1988 Feb 27 1988 May 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2680 Foreign Policy (Allegations concerning war criminals: Simon Weisenthal Center; War Crimes Inquiry) (Part 1) 1986 Oct 22 1989 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1817 Israel (Internal situation and relations) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 1 1986 Jan 16 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1139 South Africa (Prime Minister's talk with Tiny Rowland, Chief Executive of Lonrho, about Namibia and Angola) 1982 Jan 29 1982 Feb 25 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/127 United States (MT visit to Washington - policy, December 1979) 1979 Nov 8 1979 Dec 21 2009 Dec 30 Secret 301
PREM19/2398 Prime Minister (Submission of papers to the Prime Minister prior to trips abroad and recesses) 1979 Jul 17 1986 Jul 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1849 Memorials (General Sir Brian Horrocks' memorial service) 1985 Jan 24 1985 Jan 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2533 Soviet Union (Soviet intentions towards Iran) 1980 Apr 16 1987 Sep 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1738 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power policy; proposed fast reactor plant at Dounreay; Sizewell Inquiry; fast reactor policy; structure of nuclear industry; international co-operation on fusion; safety in civil nuclear installations and nuclear electricity policy after Chernobyl) (Part 9) 1984 Dec 6 1986 May 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/46 Energy (Offshore Supplies Interest Relief Grants Scheme) 1979 May 24 1979 Sep 20 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 41
PREM19/1395 Sri Lanka (Internal situation; UK/Sri Lankan relations; aid to Sri Lanka) (Part 1) 1979 May 21 1984 Oct 22 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1059 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 10) 1983 Nov 1 1983 Dec 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 412
PREM19/722 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 5) 1981 Nov 3 1982 Jul 23 2012 Dec 28 Secret 121

Pages