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 ascending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1651 Transport (London Underground dispute, June 1979: reactivation of Civil Contingencies Unit; arbitration; London Transport pay; threatened London Underground and bus strikes) 1979 May 31 1985 May 20 2014 Dec 30 Secret 122
PREM19/584 Royal family (Future career of Prince of Wales) 1979 May 31 1981 Dec 21 Closed till 2022 Unknown
PREM19/553 Overseas aid (Renegotiation of Lome Convention; closure of Tate and Lyle refinery in Liverpool; effect on African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) sugar suppliers) (Part 1) 1979 May 31 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 252
PREM19/411 Defence (Sale of tanks to Jordan; future tank policy; future of Vickers Ltd Elswick works) 1979 May 31 1981 Apr 1 2011 Dec 30 Secret 159
PREM19/207 Energy (Energy conservation and home insulation schemes: oil demand restraint) (Part 1) 1979 May 31 1980 Apr 8 2010 Dec 30 Secret 262
PREM19/847 National health (Pay in the National Health Service (NHS); possibility of industrial action; strike by ambulance men) (Part 1) 1979 May 31 1982 Aug 31 2012 Dec 28 Secret 109
PREM19/2597 China (Internal situation in China) (Part 1) 1979 May 30 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
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
PREM19/480 Government machinery (Internal audit & financial control in government) (Part 1) 1979 May 30 1981 Aug 12 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 331
PREM19/51 European policy (European Council, Strasbourg June 1979) Part 01 1979 May 30 1979 Jun 27 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 407
PREM19/1005 Economic policy (Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1976: exemption of Stock Exchange) 1979 May 30 1983 Nov 30 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 190
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
PREM19/48 Energy (Nuclear power plant industry 1979 May 29 1979 Aug 14 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 114
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

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