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 Beginssort descending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2021 Bahrain (UK/Bahraini relations) 1979 Jun 26 1987 Jul 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/194 Economic policy (Small firms: eliminating undue burdens; enterprise proposals; assistance; tax relief) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 27 1980 Jun 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 173
PREM19/49 Energy (UK/Australia nuclear safeguards agreement) 1979 Jun 27 1979 Jul 12 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 42
PREM19/302 Nationalised Industries (Coal mines) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 27 1980 Mar 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 145
PREM19/3187 St Lucia (UK/St Lucia relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 29 1990 Oct 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/28 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Tokyo) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 30 1979 Oct 18 2009 Dec 30 Secret 114
PREM19/2163 European Policy (Prime Minister's meetings and correspondence with Sir James Scott-Hopkins, leader of European Democratic Group (EDG) in European Parliament: meetings with Conservative members of EDG) 1979 Jul 1 1987 Feb 11 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1793 Home Affairs (The 1978 annual report by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC): financing of the NSPCC) 1979 Jul 2 1986 Jan 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/454 Energy (Proposal for North Sea gas gathering pipeline) 1979 Jul 2 1981 Sep 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 243
PREM19/2602 Civil Service (Proposed BBC TV series on the Civil Service: ITV and radio programmes on Whitehall) 1979 Jul 3 1989 Apr 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/44 Energy (British National Oil Corporation & BP shares) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 3 1979 Sep 12 2009 Dec 30 Secret 174
PREM19/685 Defence (Supply of highly enriched uranium (HEU)) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 3 1982 Jun 16 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 137
PREM19/108 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 3) 1979 Jul 4 1979 Jul 30 2009 Dec 30 1 Secret 254
PREM19/198 Education (Future of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA)) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 4 1980 Jun 20 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 131
PREM19/586 Security (Case of Howard Marks) 1979 Jul 4 1981 Nov 24 Retained Retained Sec 3.4

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