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
PREM19/1034 France (Franco-British Council; visit of Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy in May 1982; meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Feb 17 1983 Mar 29 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 226
PREM19/2661 Environmental Affairs (The litter problem in the UK: briefing on the City of Westminster Bill; Westminster Initiative Report; part 1. Note: With photographs) (Part 1) 1985 Dec 11 1989 Apr 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/697 Economic policy (International banking system) (Part 1) 1982 Aug 2 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 221
PREM19/73 Industrial policy (Ford Motor Company - meeting with Henry Ford II) 1979 May 7 1979 Jul 2 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 71
PREM19/2128 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 9) 1986 Nov 3 1987 Mar 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/362 Security (Leak in Guardian and Time Out of Ministerial discussion on civil nuclear power programme) 1979 Dec 6 1980 Mar 24 2010 Dec 30 Secret 23
PREM19/3028 Home Affairs (The campaign against and the use of chemical herbicides, especially 2,4,5-T: pesticide policy) 1980 Jun 1 1990 Apr 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2279 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 25) 1988 Sep 1 1988 Sep 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1691 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems (HARM/ALARM air launched missiles)) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 1 1986 May 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1348 Prime Minister (Study on future of welfare state by Lord Vaizey and others; meeting with Prime Minister) 1983 Nov 28 1984 Feb 2 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1 Archives (Suez 1956 files) 1980 Feb 21 1986 Jun 30 2006 Dec 1 Confidential 36
PREM19/1960 Social Services (Review of National Insurance position of the self-employed; assistance to small businesses; Prime Minister's meeting with National Federation of Self Employed and Small Businesses Ltd) 1980 May 15 1986 Jan 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/621 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 10) 1982 Apr 23 1982 Apr 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 300
PREM19/280 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland; Northern Ireland Conference, Belfast) (Part 6) 1980 Mar 12 1980 May 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 139
PREM19/2896 Disasters (Fire at King's Cross Underground Station, 18 November 1989) 1987 Nov 19 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30

Pages