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 ascending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/121 Social services (Benefits) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 19 1979 Dec 20 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 158
PREM19/319 Overseas Aid (Aid Policy Review: 1979-1980 and 1980-1981 aid programmes) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 19 1980 Feb 20 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 188
PREM19/68 Indonesia (President Suharto visit to UK, Nov 1979) 1979 Jun 19 1979 Nov 27 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 176
PREM19/825 Legal procedure (European Court of Human Rights: British Rail closed shop case) 1979 Jun 19 1982 Jan 19 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 53
PREM19/2864 South Africa (Visits to London by South African Finance Ministers: Senator Owen Horwood (October 1979) and Barend du Plessis (April 1989)) 1979 Jun 19 1989 Apr 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/371 South Africa (Internal situation) Part 1 1979 Jun 18 1980 Aug 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 235
PREM19/213 Defence (Arms control) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 18 1979 Aug 24 2010 Dec 30 2 Secret 231
PREM19/25 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 17 1979 Jul 13 2009 Dec 30 Secret 167
PREM19/43 Energy (Energy Policy) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 17 1979 Oct 30 2009 Dec 30 Secret 232
PREM19/130 Vietnam (Vietnamese boat people) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 15 1979 Jul 19 2009 Dec 30 Secret 304
PREM19/407 Civil service (Pay of professional, technological and scientific grades: possibility of industrial action; review of Scientific Civil Service) 1979 Jun 15 1981 Jul 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 282
PREM19/1624 Security (Allegations made to Kenneth Warren MP by John Kane about security standards at Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) establishments) 1979 Jun 14 1984 Mar 26 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/288 Liberia (Visit to UK by President Tolbert, December 1979: meeting with Prime Minister) 1979 Jun 13 1980 Mar 5 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 141
PREM19/2536 Soviet Union (Soviet visa applications) 1979 Jun 13 1987 Jan 12 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/747 European policy (Elections of President of European Parliament; candidacies) 1979 Jun 11 1982 Jan 21 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 12

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