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
PREM19/375 Sport (UK participation in Moscow Olympic Games following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) (Part 2) 1980 Mar 6 1980 Apr 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 201
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
PREM19/152 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 6) 1980 Oct 1 1980 Nov 14 2010 Dec 30 Secret 182
PREM19/337 Prime Minister (Meeting with delegation from Kingston upon Hull on 24 April 1980 to discuss problems of the fishing industry) 1980 Apr 1 1980 May 1 2010 Dec 30 Restricted 75
PREM19/213 Defence (Arms control) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 18 1979 Aug 24 2010 Dec 30 2 Secret 231
PREM19/308 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; contingency planning) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 8 1980 Jan 22 2010 Dec 30 Secret 319
PREM19/182 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; transitional problems; arbitration arrangements; comparability and cash limits) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 25 1980 Oct 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 193
PREM19/277 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; sanctions) (Part 7) 1980 May 1 1980 May 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 257
PREM19/376 Sport (UK participation in Moscow Olympic Games following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) (Part 3) 1980 May 9 1980 Jul 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 142
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
PREM19/153 Civil Service (Civil Service manpower: action to reduce size of Civil Service and staff costs) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 3 1980 Mar 5 2010 Dec 30 Secret 142
PREM19/338 Prime Minister (Meeting with Sir Horace Cutler to discuss Greater London Council (GLC) matters, December 1979) 1979 Oct 31 1980 Mar 18 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 63
PREM19/214 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 2) 1979 Oct 29 1980 Jan 31 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 185
PREM19/309 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; contingency planning) (Part 4) 1980 Jan 22 1980 Feb 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 207
PREM19/183 Economic policy (Prime Minister’s meetings with Gordon Pepper) (Part 1) 1979 May 16 1980 Mar 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 202

Pages