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 ascending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/926 Soviet Union (Relations between the UK and Soviet Union) (Part 1) 1979 May 23 1982 Apr 5 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 214
PREM19/2468 Royal Family (Career of the Duke of Kent: possibility of his taking on an unpaid non-executive board appointment in the public sector) 1979 May 23 1987 Apr 9 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/143 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 1) 1979 May 23 1980 Nov 6 2010 Dec 30 1 Confidential 248
PREM19/1856 National Health (Private Medical Care) 1979 May 22 1986 Feb 17 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/256 Housing (Housing policy; the Housing Bill; council house sales) (Part 1) 1979 May 22 1980 Jul 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 117
PREM19/1269 Housing (Organisation and structure of building societies; mortgage rates; review of house purchase finance) (Part 1) 1979 May 22 1984 Jun 29 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/4 Civil Service (Dispersal) (Part 1) 1979 May 22 1979 Oct 15 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 109
PREM19/972 Defence (Briefing on military capabilities of Warsaw Pact) 1979 May 21 1983 Jan 19 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 25
PREM19/2 Australia (MT visit to, Jul 1979) 1979 May 21 1979 Aug 3 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 212
PREM19/961 Cabinet (Brevity in recording of Cabinet and Committee minutes; guidance on Cabinet papers) 1979 May 21 1983 Jun 17 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 9
PREM19/14 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 1) 1979 May 21 1979 Dec 15 2013 Sep 24 Top Secret 177
PREM19/1395 Sri Lanka (Internal situation; UK/Sri Lankan relations; aid to Sri Lanka) (Part 1) 1979 May 21 1984 Oct 22 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2472 Royal Family (Career of Prince Andrew, Duke of York) 1979 May 21 1987 Oct 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/66 Home affairs (Sale of Isle of Iona) 1979 May 21 1979 Jun 7 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 12
PREM19/1889 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's weekly diary meeting) 1979 May 21 1986 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21 1

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