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 Endssort descending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/693 Defence (Arms control) (Part 3) 1979 Sep 3 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 258
PREM19/229 European Policy (EEC food exports to Soviet Union; sales of subsidised butter) 1979 Sep 3 1980 Jul 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 80
PREM19/1216 Environmental affairs (Environmental policy: reports of Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution; industrial pollution and acid rain; possible British initiative) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 4 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 267
PREM19/11 Cuba (Soviet ground forces) 1979 Sep 5 1979 Dec 17 2009 Dec 30 Secret 28
PREM19/65 Greece (PM Karamanlis visit to UK, Oct 1979) 1979 Sep 5 1979 Oct 23 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 56
PREM19/1662 Civil Service (Industrial relations in the Civil Service: Department of Health and Social Security industrial action) 1979 Sep 5 1985 Oct 14 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/818 Ireland (Security of the Northern Ireland border) 1979 Sep 6 1982 Jun 16 2012 Dec 28 3 Top Secret - Cabinet 2 16
PREM19/36 Economic policy (Invisibles in trade figures) 1979 Sep 6 1979 Oct 26 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 67
PREM19/21 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 4) 1979 Sep 6 1979 Sep 28 2009 Dec 30 Secret 106
PREM19/71 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 7 1979 Dec 13 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 119
PREM19/34 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 7 1979 Dec 20 2009 Dec 30 Secret 245
PREM19/6 Civil Service (Manpower Freeze) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 7 1979 Dec 31 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 198
PREM19/112 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 7) 1979 Sep 11 1979 Oct 10 2009 Dec 30 Secret 293
PREM19/156 Commonwealth (Five Power Defence Arrangements: joint exercises; proposal from Prime Minister of Australia) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 11 1980 Oct 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 27
PREM19/209 Energy (Offshore supplies interest relief grants scheme; report on irregular payments) 1979 Sep 13 1980 Jun 2 2034 Jan 1 Retained (personal information)

Pages