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 descending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/331 Poland (Internal situation; relations with UK) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 22 1980 Nov 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 227
PREM19/302 Nationalised Industries (Coal mines) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 27 1980 Mar 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 145
PREM19/177 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 7 1980 May 2 2010 Dec 30 Secret 214
PREM19/271 Industrial policy (Industrial support) (Part 1) 1980 Aug 8 1980 Oct 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 84
PREM19/149 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 3) 1980 Apr 24 1980 May 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 143
PREM19/369 Social Services (Prime Minister’s meeting with representatives of the Community Service Volunteers to discuss youth unemployment) 1980 Jul 2 1980 Nov 11 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 78
PREM19/242 Government Machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the scrutiny programme) (Part 4) 1979 Nov 30 1980 Feb 12 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 228
PREM19/332 Post and Telecommunications (Postal charges on articles for the blind) 1980 May 21 1981 Jan 19 2010 Dec 30 Restricted 37
PREM19/210 Energy (European Community energy issues; research projects; oil import targets; coking coal scheme; projects in the hydrocarbons sector) 1979 May 11 1980 Dec 12 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 131
PREM19/303 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity prices; financial targets and energy pricing policy) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 28 1980 Mar 21 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 231
PREM19/178 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 4) 1980 May 6 1980 Sep 22 2010 Dec 30 Secret 161
PREM19/179 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 5) 1980 Sep 23 1980 Oct 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 310
PREM19/272 Information and Publicity (Public attitudes on pay determination; presentation of Government’s economic policy) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 23 1980 Jun 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 173
PREM19/150 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 4) 1980 May 8 1980 Jul 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 222
PREM19/370 South Africa (Visit to UK by Dr Van Zyl Slabbert, leader of opposition, September 1980: call on Prime Minister) 1980 Sep 9 1980 Oct 1 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 32

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