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
PREM19/828 Local government (Pay of staff employed by local authorities) 1979 Jul 4 1982 Jan 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 29
PREM19/16 Defence (Anglo-German offset agreement) 1979 Jul 5 1979 Nov 27 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 8
PREM19/3045 Iraq (UK/Iraq relations) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 5 1990 Mar 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1881 Parliament (Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 5 1986 Apr 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/86 Israel (Farewell call by Israeli Ambassador, July 1979) 1979 Jul 5 1979 Jul 24 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 18
PREM19/238 Foreign Policy (East/West relations; Western strategy in wake of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 5 1980 May 30 2010 Dec 30 Top Secret 192
PREM19/126 United States (President Carter's energy policy) 1979 Jul 6 1979 Dec 17 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 70
PREM19/810 Industrial policy (Impact of government on industry; Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Trenchard, Minister of State, Department of Industry) 1979 Jul 6 1982 Nov 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 72
PREM19/762 Germany (Anglo-German relations; exchanges between Chancellor Schmidt and the Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 6 1982 Feb 19 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 271
PREM19/1422 Broadcasting (Television licence fees: finances of BBC; pay in the BBC; review of external services) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 6 1985 Mar 28 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 263
PREM19/2560 United Nations (Call on Prime Minister by Sir Anthony Parsons, UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations, August 1979: valedictory despatch by Sir John Thomson, UK Permanent Representative, April 1987) 1979 Jul 6 1987 Apr 15 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/1887 Portugal (UK/Portugal relations; internal situation; death of Dr Francisco de Sa Carneiro; Prime Minister's meeting with Dr Mario Soares, 14 February 1984)(Part 1) 1979 Jul 7 1986 May 2 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2589 Australia (Visits to the UK by Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, State Premier of Queensland, and his successor Mike Ahern) 1979 Jul 9 1989 Mar 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1299 Libya (UK/Libyan relations; threat to Libyan dissidents in UK) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 9 1984 Mar 23 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/128 Vatican (Possible papal visit to Ireland, north & south) 1979 Jul 10 1979 Oct 1 2009 Dec 30 1 Confidential 67

Pages