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
PREM19/2518 Singapore (Relations with UK: visits by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew; meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 May 24 1988 Mar 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/436 Economic policy (Correspondence from John Sparrow on financial and economic policy; meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 May 25 1982 Apr 16 2011 Dec 30 Unclassified 170
PREM19/394 Broadcasting (BBC External Services) 1979 May 25 1981 Oct 22 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 203
PREM19/730 Education (Policy on education expenditure; role of HM Inspectorate of Schools; management of higher education; computers in schools) (Part 1) 1979 May 25 1981 Mar 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 304
PREM19/829 Local government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Green Paper on alternatives to domestic rates) (Part 1) 1979 May 25 1982 Jun 28 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 280
PREM19/47 Energy (Nuclear power safety - Schmidt letter) 1979 May 28 1979 Jun 29 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 28
PREM19/123 South Korea (Call on MT by South Korean Presidential envoy) 1979 May 28 1979 Jun 28 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 26
PREM19/482 Government machinery (Reactivation of Civil Contingencies Unit in Cabinet Office: review of contingency planning; proposed Central Press Unit; use of TAVR during industrial disputes) (Part 1) 1979 May 29 1981 Mar 2 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 70
PREM19/451 Egypt (Visits to UK by Vice President Mubarak in June 1979, May 1980 and September 1980: calls on the Prime Minister) 1979 May 29 1980 Sep 8 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 156
PREM19/48 Energy (Nuclear power plant industry 1979 May 29 1979 Aug 14 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 114
PREM19/266 Industrial policy (Prime Minister’s meetings with Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on economic strategy) (Part 1) 1979 May 29 1980 Sep 15 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 235
PREM19/2597 China (Internal situation in China) (Part 1) 1979 May 30 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/51 European policy (European Council, Strasbourg June 1979) Part 01 1979 May 30 1979 Jun 27 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 407
PREM19/38 Economic policy (Proposed Council of Economic Advisers) 1979 May 30 1979 Sep 10 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 44
PREM19/1904 Prime Minister (Meetings with the National Pensioners Conventions, February 1982 to March 1986) (part 1) 1979 May 30 1986 Mar 27 2016 Feb 19

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