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
PREM19/1145 Trade (Intellectual property rights and innovation) 1982 Jul 19 1983 Dec 22 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 228
PREM19/189 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Venice) (Part 4) [Part 5 of this file has been destroyed] 1980 Jun 20 1980 Aug 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 189
PREM19/435 Economic policy (Brandt Commission; relations with developing countries; North/South Dialogue; Cancun Summit, Mexico) (Part 2) 1980 Nov 12 1981 Sep 24 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 263
PREM19/3013 Government Machinery (Transfer of responsibility for the Passport Office from the Foreign Secretary to the Home Secretary: possible private sector involvement) 1983 Jun 23 1990 Mar 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2271 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish Summits; Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 16) 1986 May 8 1987 Feb 1 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1654 USA (Economic situation in the United States) (Part 2) 1982 Oct 12 1985 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/109 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 4) 1979 Jul 31 1979 Aug 9 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 226
PREM19/3177 Soviet Union (Policy towards the Soviet Union: call on Prime Minister by Robert Conquest; Soviet and East European studies) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 13 1990 Jun 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1401 United Nations (Dinner for members of United Nations Administrative Committee on Coordination, April 1984) 1983 Oct 17 1984 May 10 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2196 Government Machinery (Propriety of Ministers arranging briefing for Conservative backbenchers) 1979 Dec 5 1988 Nov 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1065 Industrial policy (Port of London Authority (PLA); five year plan; finances; closures; possible industrial action) 1979 Jun 7 1983 May 13 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 76
PREM19/690 Defence (Defence sales; sale of HMS Invincible to Royal Australian Navy) (Part 2) 1981 Dec 15 1982 Nov 4 2012 Dec 28 Secret 276
PREM19/349 Rhodesia (Constitutional Conference, Lancaster House, London, Sept-Dec 1979: proceedings & conference papers, CC (79) 11-40) 1979 Sep 14 1979 Oct 26 2010 Dec 30 Restricted 269
PREM19/29 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 11 2009-12-30 Secret 347
PREM19/2879 Trade (Commodity policy: International Tin Council litigation; International Coffee Agreement) (Part 4) 1986 Nov 5 1989 Nov 25 2016 Dec 30

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