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
PREM19/425 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 10) 1981 Oct 12 1981 Dec 3 2011 Dec 30 Secret 169
PREM19/766 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Schmidt in Bonn, November 1981) (Part 3) 1982 Oct 2 1982 Nov 19 2012 Dec 28 Secret 68
PREM19/1451 Drugs (Drug misuse: trafficking; proposed legislation; Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) report) (Part 2) 1985 Jun 3 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 219
PREM19/985 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 23) 1983 Jul 1 1983 Jul 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 286
PREM19/1329 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 8) 1983 May 4 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 301
PREM19/518 Local government (Pay of local authority manual workers; Fire Service dispute; industrial action in the water industry) (Part 1) 1980 Oct 23 1981 Nov 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 171
PREM19/1420 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 39) 1984 Nov 1 1985 Apr 25 2014 Dec 30 Secret 382
PREM19/397 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 2) 1980 Nov 11 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 4 Secret 252
PREM19/738 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 14) 1982 Feb 3 1982 Mar 18 2012 Dec 28 Secret 220
PREM19/113 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 8) 1979 Oct 11 1979 Oct 31 2009 Dec 30 Secret 342
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
PREM19/922 Social services (Employers' statutory sick pay scheme) 1979 Dec 6 1981 Nov 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 85
PREM19/1263 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 12) 1984 Feb 1 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 16 Secret 458
PREM19/237 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister’s bilateral meetings in Belgrade whilst attending Tito’s funeral) 1980 May 5 1980 May 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 92
PREM19/81 Ireland (Northern Ireland situation) (Part 2) 1979 Aug 27 1979 Sep 28 2010 Nov 10 3 Secret 184

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