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 ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/189 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Venice) (Part 4) [Part 5 of this file has been destroyed] 1980 Jun 20 1980 Aug 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 189
PREM19/282 Ireland (Hunger strike at Maze Prison, Northern Ireland; the ‘Dirty Protest’) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 15 1980 Dec 10 2010 Dec 30 2 Secret 245
PREM19/381 USA (Visit to UK by Dr Harold Brown, US Secretary of Defense, June 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 May 28 1980 Aug 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 74
PREM19/250 Government Machinery (Future of Civil Service Department; integration with the Treasury; Select Committee consideration) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 7 1980 Nov 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 549
PREM19/343 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 13) 1980 Jan 12 1980 Jan 24 2010 Dec 30 Secret 258
PREM19/221 European Policy (European Council Meeting, Luxembourg, 1-2 December 1980) (Part 5) 1980 Oct 24 1980 Dec 4 2010 Dec 30 Secret 128
PREM19/314 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding; British Shipbuilders (BS) strategy and financing; BS pay claim; privatisation) (Part 2) 1979 Dec 5 1980 Nov 12 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 193
PREM19/190 Economic policy (Public Service pay negotiating machinery) 1980 Jan 4 1980 Feb 13 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 14
PREM19/382 USA (Visit to UK by Major General George J Keegan Jr, US Air Force (retired), March 1980: call on Prime Minister) 1980 Feb 20 1980 Jun 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 27
PREM19/251 Greece (Sale of coal fired power station) 1980 Sep 12 1980 Dec 29 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 128
PREM19/344 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 14) 1980 Jan 25 1980 Feb 15 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 297
PREM19/222 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 4) 1979 Dec 3 1980 Jan 21 2010 Dec 30 Secret 219
PREM19/315 Nationalised Industries (Correspondence with Alan Newman Ltd about contract for conversion of liner into floating hotel: negative response from Harland and Wolff and British Shipbuilders) 1980 Jul 2 1980 Aug 4 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 14
PREM19/316 New Hebrides (Independence; security situation; disturbances on Santo and Tanna; Anglo/French consultations) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 31 1980 Jul 17 2010 Dec 30 Secret 153
PREM19/191 Economic policy (Proposal for a national investment trust to promote wider property ownership: report by Leo Pliatzky, July 1980) 1980 Jul 17 1980 Dec 23 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 59

Pages