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
PREM19/53 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jul 12 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 166
PREM19/1405 USA (Internal political situation; 1980 and 1984 Presidential election campaigns) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1984 Nov 7 2014 Jan 3 2 Secret 457
PREM19/396 Cabinet (Questions of Procedure for Ministers: revision and reissue; disclosure of structure and details of Cabinet committees) 1979 May 4 1981 Sep 23 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 171
PREM19/200 Education (Teachers’ pay) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1980 Jun 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 154
PREM19/24 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 14 2009 Dec 30 Secret 111
PREM19/41 Elections (Briefing for incoming PM) 1979 May 4 1979 May 7 2009 Dec 30 Secret 93
PREM19/42 Energy (Energy Policy) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 16 2009 Dec 30 2 Confidential 219
PREM19/58 Germany (Chancellor's visits to UK, Schmidt May 1979) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 May 25 2009 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/536 Ministers (Rules governing travel by Ministers and their families: charging for Royal Air Force aircraft) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1981 Nov 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 196
PREM19/29 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 11 2009-12-30 Secret 347
PREM19/95 National Health Service (Doctors' and Dentists' pay) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jul 27 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 242
PREM19/781 Government machinery (Future of the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection; departmental arrangements for overseas aid and development: management review of Overseas Development Administration (ODA); review of common services of FCO and ODA) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1982 Jun 16 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 215
PREM19/96 Nationalized industries (Shipbuilding) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Nov 29 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 121
PREM19/437 Economic policy (Exchange rate; exchange control policy; inflow controls) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1981 Oct 23 2011 Dec 30 Secret 267
PREM19/79 Ireland (Taoiseach's visits to UK) (Part 1) 1979 May 2 1979 Sep 6 2009 Dec 30 Secret 156

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