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 Beginssort descending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1107 Prime Minister (Briefing for incoming Prime Minister from Cabinet Office, Prime Minister's Office and Civil Service Department, May 1979; post-election briefing, June 1983) 1979 Apr 6 1983 Jun 8 2013 Aug 1 Secret 162
PREM19/483 Home affairs (Oil refineries in Canvey Island and Thurrock area: industrial hazards) 1979 Apr 11 1981 Mar 24 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 155
PREM19/761 France (Internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Apr 12 1982 Jan 25 2012 Dec 28 2 Confidential 335
PREM19/1994 Uganda (Internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Apr 17 1986 Jan 31 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/248 Government Machinery (Special advisers; appointment procedure; pay) (Part 1) 1979 Apr 27 1980 May 2 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 235
PREM19/106 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 1) 1979 Apr 30 1979 May 31 2009 Dec 30 Secret 321
PREM19/37 Economic policy (CPRS paper on UK economy) 1979 May 1 1979 May 8 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 60
PREM19/79 Ireland (Taoiseach's visits to UK) (Part 1) 1979 May 2 1979 Sep 6 2009 Dec 30 Secret 156
PREM19/80 Ireland (Northern Ireland situation) (Part 1) 1979 May 2 1979 Aug 24 2009 Dec 30 2 Secret 235
PREM19/396 Cabinet (Questions of Procedure for Ministers: revision and reissue; disclosure of structure and details of Cabinet committees) 1979 May 4 1981 Sep 23 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 171
PREM19/24 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 14 2009 Dec 30 Secret 111
PREM19/200 Education (Teachers’ pay) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1980 Jun 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 154
PREM19/41 Elections (Briefing for incoming PM) 1979 May 4 1979 May 7 2009 Dec 30 Secret 93
PREM19/1405 USA (Internal political situation; 1980 and 1984 Presidential election campaigns) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1984 Nov 7 2014 Jan 3 2 Secret 457
PREM19/781 Government machinery (Future of the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection; departmental arrangements for overseas aid and development: management review of Overseas Development Administration (ODA); review of common services of FCO and ODA) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1982 Jun 16 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 215

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