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 release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selectionssort descending
PREM19/209 Energy (Offshore supplies interest relief grants scheme; report on irregular payments) 1979 Sep 13 1980 Jun 2 2034 Jan 1 Retained (personal information)
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
PREM19/284 Ireland (Intelligence on Irish terrorists in the Republic) 1979 Oct 10 1980 Apr 15 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/287 Legal Procedure (Proposed amendment to Act of Settlement 1701) 1980 Jul 8 1980 Oct 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/294 Memoirs (BBC programmes based on Lord Mountbatten’s memoirs) 1980 Jan 16 1980 Nov 11 2015 Jun 23
PREM19/353 Rhodesia (Constitutional Conference, Lancaster House, London, Sept-Dec 1979: Report) 1979 Dec 21 1979 Dec 21 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 168
PREM19/385 Ireland (Prime Minister’s visit to Northern Ireland, December 1979) 1979 Aug 27 1980 Jan 16 2010 Dec 30 Top Secret 137
PREM19/386 Aerospace (British Aerospace’s bid for Arab Communications Satellite) 1981 Apr 7 1981 May 18 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 29
PREM19/480 Government machinery (Internal audit & financial control in government) (Part 1) 1979 May 30 1981 Aug 12 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 331
PREM19/512 Jordan (Visits to UK by King Hussein: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 1 1981 Nov 18 2011 Dec 30 1
PREM19/582 Royal family (Duke of Edinburgh's statement on nuclear war: correspondence between the Duke and Fenner Brockway, Lord Brockway) 1981 Feb 12 1981 Apr 9 Closed till 2022 Unknown
PREM19/583 Royal family (Form of memorial to Lord Mountbatten; erection of a statue) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 19 1981 May 29 Closed till 2022 Unknown
PREM19/584 Royal family (Future career of Prince of Wales) 1979 May 31 1981 Dec 21 Closed till 2022 Unknown
PREM19/586 Security (Case of Howard Marks) 1979 Jul 4 1981 Nov 24 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/588 Security (Sir Peter Hayman: allegations against former public official of unnatural sexual proclivities; security aspects) 1980 Oct 27 1981 Mar 20 2015 Jan 30 Secret 38

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