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
PREM19/2045 Civil Service (Rules governing acceptance of business appointments by civil servants following resignation or retirement) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 24 1987 Feb 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/984 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 22) 1983 Jan 24 1983 Jun 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 272
PREM19/947 Aerospace (Application by British Caledonian Airways to operate London-Los Angeles route) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Mar 11 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 18
PREM19/612 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 21 1981 Dec 15 2012 Dec 28 Secret 94
PREM19/2704 Government Machinery (Monopolies and mergers) (Part 4) 1989 Mar 8 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1832 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations) (Part 6) 1986 Apr 17 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1579 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 16) 1985 Jan 21 1985 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 382
PREM19/2418 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Irina Ratushinskaya, 22 December 1986) 1986 Dec 19 1988 Jun 13 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1241 France (State visit to UK by President Mitterrand, October 1984) (Part 4) 1984 Mar 1 1984 Nov 2 Retained Retained
PREM19/286 Italy (Visit to UK by Emilio Colombo, Foreign Minister, May 1980) 1980 May 27 1980 May 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 22
PREM19/867 Parliament (Succession to the Crown; Private Member's Bill) 1981 Dec 11 1982 Apr 16 2013 Jul 25 Confidential 47
PREM19/531 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 6) 1981 May 1 1981 Sep 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 340
PREM19/1894 Prime Minister (Meeting with Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) and Tom Clarke MP to discuss future of Ravenscraig and Gartcosh steel mills) 1985 Jul 19 1986 Jan 29 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2549 Syria (Internal situation: UK/Syrian relations; Syrian involvement in the Hindawi affair and other terrorist activities; diplomatic and commercial measures by UK, USA, Canada, and European Community states) 1979 May 7 1987 Jul 27 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1753 European Policy (Visits to UK by Presidents of the European Commission, Gaston Thorn (March 1983 - June 1984) and Jacques Delors (May 1985 - February 1987): meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1983 Feb 15 1986 Dec 31 2014 Dec 30

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