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
PREM19/117 Rhodesia (Lord Boyd's Report on April 1979 election) 1979 May 16 1979 May 16 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 74
PREM19/56 Fishing Industry (Mourne herring fishery) 1979 Aug 22 1979 Aug 30 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 19
PREM19/24 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 14 2009 Dec 30 Secret 111
PREM19/86 Israel (Farewell call by Israeli Ambassador, July 1979) 1979 Jul 5 1979 Jul 24 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 18
PREM19/57 France (MT visits to, Paris June 1979) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1979 Aug 28 2009 Dec 30 Secret 172
PREM19/25 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 17 1979 Jul 13 2009 Dec 30 Secret 167
PREM19/119 Security (Robin Cook's Bill on the Security Service) 1979 Nov 29 1979 Dec 17 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 17
PREM19/2 Australia (MT visit to, Jul 1979) 1979 May 21 1979 Aug 3 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 212
PREM19/87 Italy (Italian PM’s visits to UK) (?Part 1) [possible filing error - Part 2 of this file has no clear Part 1] 1979 Jun 1 1979 Jul 16 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 104
PREM19/58 Germany (Chancellor's visits to UK, Schmidt May 1979) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 May 25 2009 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/26 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 3) 1979 Jul 16 1979 Oct 2 2009 Dec 30 Secret 56
PREM19/121 Social services (Benefits) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 19 1979 Dec 20 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 158
PREM19/3 China (Premier Hua visit to UK, Oct 1979) (Part 1) 1979 May 18 1979 Nov 29 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 236
PREM19/88 Italy (MT’s visits to Italy; Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 20 1979 Oct 8 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 101
PREM19/59 Germany (MT visits to, Bonn Oct 1979) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 11 1979 Dec 7 2009 Dec 30 1 Secret 156

Pages