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
PREM19/2648 Education (School meals, milk and transport) 1979 Sep 13 1989 Jun 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/45 Energy (British National Oil Corporation & BP shares)(Part 2) 1979 Sep 13 1979 Dec 21 2009 Dec 30 Secret 267
PREM19/349 Rhodesia (Constitutional Conference, Lancaster House, London, Sept-Dec 1979: proceedings & conference papers, CC (79) 11-40) 1979 Sep 14 1979 Oct 26 2010 Dec 30 Restricted 269
PREM19/1424 Chile (UK/Chilean relations: policy on arms sales) 1979 Sep 17 1985 Dec 9 2014 Dec 30 Secret 328
PREM19/62 Government machinery (Rayner review) (Part 3) 1979 Sep 17 1979 Nov 29 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 255
PREM19/817 Ireland (Northern Ireland Security Co-ordinator: appointments of Sir Maurice Oldfield and Sir Brooks Richards; post then left in abeyance) 1979 Sep 18 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret - Cabinet 2 146
PREM19/583 Royal family (Form of memorial to Lord Mountbatten; erection of a statue) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 19 1981 May 29 Closed till 2022 Unknown
PREM19/797 Immigration (White Paper on proposals for changing the immigration rules; review of immigration appeals system) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 19 1982 Aug 26 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 167
PREM19/2291 Legal Procedure (Jury vetting) 1979 Sep 20 1985 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/656 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (Franks): documentation seen by PM, extracted from PREM19 files and copied to the Committee) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 20 1981 Dec 21 2012 Dec 28 Secret 131
PREM19/88 Italy (MT’s visits to Italy; Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 20 1979 Oct 8 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 101
PREM19/2769 Luxembourg (Prime Minister's visits to Luxembourg, October 1979 and April 1989: policy) 1979 Sep 20 1989 Apr 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/295 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 21 1980 May 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 250
PREM19/187 Economic policy (Pay comparability and the future of the Standing Commission (Clegg Commission); appointment of members) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 21 1980 Jul 1 2010 Dec 30 Secret 183
PREM19/612 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 21 1981 Dec 15 2012 Dec 28 Secret 94

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