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 Ends Date of releasesort descending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/165 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 8) 1980 Jan 29 1980 Feb 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 176
PREM19/260 Industrial policy (Future of National Enterprise Board (NEB); disposal of shareholdings; Ferranti) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1980 Jun 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 150
PREM19/353 Rhodesia (Constitutional Conference, Lancaster House, London, Sept-Dec 1979: Report) 1979 Dec 21 1979 Dec 21 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 168
PREM19/136 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 21 1980 Feb 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 257
PREM19/137 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 4) 1980 Feb 28 1980 Apr 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/230 European Policy (Designation of European Community) 1980 Jan 4 1980 Feb 7 2010 Dec 30 Restricted 6
PREM19/325 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 3) 1979 Nov 23 1980 Feb 15 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 302
PREM19/198 Education (Future of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA)) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 4 1980 Jun 20 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 131
PREM19/293 Manpower (Special employment measures; youth unemployment; education, training and industrial performance; industrial training) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 10 1980 Oct 15 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 107
PREM19/166 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 9) 1980 Mar 3 1980 Jul 2 2010 Dec 30 Secret 184
PREM19/261 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 2) 1979 Oct 1 1980 Feb 1 2010 Dec 30 Secret 221
PREM19/354 Royal Family (Visit to France by Prince Charles, July 1980) 1980 Apr 15 1980 Apr 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 8
PREM19/138 Algeria (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister Mohammed Benyahia, June 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 4) 1980 May 20 1980 Jun 2 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 17
PREM19/231 European Policy (Visit to UK by Henri de Koster, President of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, May 1980; meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 Apr 15 1980 May 29 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 33
PREM19/199 Education (Future of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA)) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 20 1980 Nov 28 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 36

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