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
PREM19/247 Government Machinery (Ministerial co-ordination of maritime affairs) 1979 May 16 1980 Feb 21 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 14
PREM19/183 Economic policy (Prime Minister’s meetings with Gordon Pepper) (Part 1) 1979 May 16 1980 Mar 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 202
PREM19/2082 Economic Policy (Correspondence from and meetings with Sir Walter Salomon, private banker) (Part 1) 1979 May 16 1987 Jan 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/15 Defence (Modernisation of Theatre Nuclear Forces)(Part 1) 1979 May 16 1979 Nov 29 2009-12-30 Secret 226
PREM19/241 Government Machinery (Responsibility for science matters; future of Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development (ACARD)) (Part 1) 1979 May 16 1980 Feb 28 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 147
PREM19/1234 European policy (Elections to European Parliament) (Part 1) 1979 May 16 1984 Mar 19 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/117 Rhodesia (Lord Boyd's Report on April 1979 election) 1979 May 16 1979 May 16 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 74
PREM19/821 Japan (Commercial relations with Japan; proposed Nissan car plant in the UK) (Part 1) 1979 May 17 1981 Nov 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 248
PREM19/89 Legal procedure (Authority to order drafting of Bills) 1979 May 17 1979 May 18 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 5
PREM19/920 Social services (Uprating of social security benefits) (Part 1) 1979 May 17 1980 Jan 10 2012 Dec 28 Secret 79
PREM19/92 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 1) 1979 May 17 1979 Sep 20 2009 Dec 30 1 Secret 223
PREM19/341 Rhodesia (Oil sanctions against Rhodesia; follow-up to Bingham Report; possible further review; proceedings by Lonrho against Shell and BP) 1979 May 17 1980 Sep 22 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 129
PREM19/144 Civil Service (Pay and Pensions: reports by Government Actuary’s Department and Civil Service Pay Research Unit) 1979 May 17 1980 May 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 144
PREM19/2551 Trade (Multilateral trade negotiations) 1979 May 17 1987 Nov 19 2016-07-2016
PREM19/3006 Germany (Visit to London by Count Otto Lambsdorff, Chairman of the FDP (Free Democrats), January 1990) 1979 May 17 1990 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30

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