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
PREM19/811 Industrial policy (Financial difficulties of Fodens Ltd, Sandbach: local employment consequences) 1979 Jul 10 1982 Feb 10 2012 Dec 28 1 Unclassified 57
PREM19/2688 Foreign Policy (Consular Fees (Amendment) Bill: increases in consular fees) 1979 Jul 10 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1782 Home Affairs (Capital punishment: sentencing policy) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 11 1986 Mar 5 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 253
PREM19/469 France (Visit to UK by President Giscard d'Estaing, November 1979: Anglo-French Summit) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 11 1981 Mar 10 2011 Dec 30 Secret 190
PREM19/101 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 2) 1979 Jul 12 1979 Nov 23 2009 Dec 30 Secret 334
PREM19/1907 Prime Minister's Gifts (Gifts received by the Prime Minister since taking office) 1979 Jul 13 1985 Nov 5 2015 Dec 30 2
PREM19/132 Zambia (Policy) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Jul 23 Closed
PREM19/348 Rhodesia (Constitutional Conference, Lancaster House, London, Sept-Dec 1979: submission folder; proceedings & conference papers, CC (79) 1-10) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Sep 14 2010 Dec 30 Secret 419
PREM19/54 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 2) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Oct 25 2009 Dec 30 Secret 244
PREM19/72 Industrial policy (Future of Rolls-Royce) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Nov 14 2009 Dec 30 Secret 97
PREM19/395 Broadcasting (Legislation on broadcasting; fourth TV channel; Welsh language broadcasting (threatened hunger strike by former Plaid Cymru MP Gwynfor Evans); renewal of BBC Charter) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 16 1981 Jun 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 172
PREM19/232 European Policy (Prime Minister’s meetings with James Scott-Hopkins MEP, leader of European Democratic Group (EDG) in European Parliament, and other EDG MEPs) 1979 Jul 16 1980 Jul 18 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 218
PREM19/40 Economic policy (Executive perks) 1979 Jul 16 1979 Dec 18 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 87
PREM19/26 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 3) 1979 Jul 16 1979 Oct 2 2009 Dec 30 Secret 56
PREM19/1015 Energy (Government evidence to inquiry on coal mining in Vale of Belvoir) 1979 Jul 16 1983 Mar 4 2013 Aug 1 Secret 133

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