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
PREM19/55 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 3) 1979 Oct 25 1979 Nov 30 2009 Dec 30 Secret 329
PREM19/684 Defence (Special project) 1980 May 9 1982 Nov 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/343 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 13) 1980 Jan 12 1980 Jan 24 2010 Dec 30 Secret 258
PREM19/1135 Security (Irish Republican Socialist Party) 1983 Oct 13 1983 Nov 7 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/2387 Poland (Internal situation; economic assistance ) (Part 9) 1982 Oct 21 1988 Jan 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1490 European Policy (European Council meeting, Brussels, March 1985) (Part 20) 1985 Mar 7 1985 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 718
PREM19/2388 Poland (Visit of Foreign Minister Josef Czyrek in June 1981 and his successor Marian Orzechowski in December 1987: calls on the Prime Minister) 1981 May 5 1987 Dec 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1571 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 13) 1985 Jun 2 1985 Sep 3 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2527 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK ) (Part 17) 1988 Sep 1 1988 Dec 22 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1734 Egypt (Visits to the UK by Prime Ministers, Dr Mustafa Khalil and Dr Ali Loutfi: meetings with the Prime Minister) 1979 Oct 22 1986 Sep 16 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/312 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation (BSC); BSC finances and future shape under new chairman; problems of private sector steel firms) (Part 7) 1980 Sep 12 1980 Nov 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 162
PREM19/2296 Legal Procedure (Quia timet injunctions) 1987 Feb 9 1987 Feb 25 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3009 Government Machinery (Departmental responsibility for response to marine oil and chemical spills) 1983 Mar 30 1990 Feb 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2268 Iraq (Internal situation: Iran-Iraq War) (Part 8) 1987 Sep 1 1987 Dec 18 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1652 USA (Visit to UK by Elizabeth Dole, US Secretary of Transportation: call on Prime Minister, May 1) 1983 Aug 29 1985 May 17 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 19

Pages