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 filesort ascending File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/248 Government Machinery (Special advisers; appointment procedure; pay) (Part 1) 1979 Apr 27 1980 May 2 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 235
PREM19/247 Government Machinery (Ministerial co-ordination of maritime affairs) 1979 May 16 1980 Feb 21 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 14
PREM19/246 Government Machinery (Future of Directorate of Overseas Surveys and Centre for Overseas Pest Research) 1979 Jul 19 1980 Feb 8 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 14
PREM19/245 Government Machinery (Review of non-departmental public bodies (quangos): report by Sir Leo Pliatzky) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 23 1980 Jan 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 250
PREM19/244 Government Machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the scrutiny programme) (Part 6) 1980 Jun 5 1980 Nov 24 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 243
PREM19/243 Government Machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the scrutiny programme) (Part 5) 1980 Feb 14 1980 May 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 244
PREM19/242 Government Machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the scrutiny programme) (Part 4) 1979 Nov 30 1980 Feb 12 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 228
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
PREM19/240 Gabon (Visit to UK by President Bongo, May 1980: call on Prime Minister) 1980 Apr 23 1980 May 22 2010 Dec 30 Secret 43
PREM19/239 France (Prime Minister’s visit to France, September 1980: Franco-British Conference at Bordeaux) 1979 Oct 9 1980 Oct 6 2010 Dec 30 Secret 321
PREM19/238 Foreign Policy (East/West relations; Western strategy in wake of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 5 1980 May 30 2010 Dec 30 Top Secret 192
PREM19/237 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister’s bilateral meetings in Belgrade whilst attending Tito’s funeral) 1980 May 5 1980 May 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 92
PREM19/236 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister’s visit to Greece and Yugoslavia, September 1980: policy) 1980 Aug 27 1980 Oct 6 2010 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/235 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 3) 1980 May 9 1980 Aug 15 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 178
PREM19/234 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 2) 1980 Mar 3 1980 May 7 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 134

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