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? File classificationsort ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2527 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK ) (Part 17) 1988 Sep 1 1988 Dec 22 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2488 Security (Correspondence with Lieutenant Colonel Robert Butler) 1983 Apr 15 1988 Mar 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2199 Government Machinery (Special advisers; appointment procedure) (Part 3) 1984 Jan 12 1987 Jun 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2529 Soviet Union (Prime Minister's visit to Soviet Union, March-April 1987) (Part 1) 1987 Jan 5 1987 Mar 31 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2489 Security (Distribution of the Prime Minister's diary) 1981 May 13 1988 May 24 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1265 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 14) 1984 May 1 1984 Jun 30 2014 Jan 3 9 Secret UK eyes 373
PREM19/510 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 20 1981 Nov 11 2011 Dec 30 Secret - UK eyes A 211
PREM19/817 Ireland (Northern Ireland Security Co-ordinator: appointments of Sir Maurice Oldfield and Sir Brooks Richards; post then left in abeyance) 1979 Sep 18 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret - Cabinet 2 146
PREM19/195 Economic policy (Possible changes in the taxation of bank profits) 1979 Nov 14 1980 Mar 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 61
PREM19/541 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 4) 1981 Jul 22 1981 Nov 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 284
PREM19/1568 Manpower (Employment policy: measures to counter unemployment; education and training for 14 to 18 year olds; Youth Training Scheme (YTS)) (Part 11) 1984 Nov 1 1985 Feb 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 238
PREM19/416 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 6) 1981 May 18 1981 Jun 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 227
PREM19/1100 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office; cable expansion and broadcasting policy; telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; Telecommunications Bill) (Part 6) 1982 Oct 28 1983 Mar 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 284
PREM19/1442 Defence (Arms control) (Part 6A) 1985 Mar 8 1985 Jul 29 2014 Dec 30 3 Secret 231
PREM19/72 Industrial policy (Future of Rolls-Royce) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Nov 14 2009 Dec 30 Secret 97

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