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
PREM19/185 Economic policy (Inflation proofed pensions in the public sector; independent enquiry) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 10 1980 Jun 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/280 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland; Northern Ireland Conference, Belfast) (Part 6) 1980 Mar 12 1980 May 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 139
PREM19/379 Trade (United States synthetic fibre exports to UK; problems of the UK clothing and textile industry) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 12 1980 Jun 27 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 165
PREM19/248 Government Machinery (Special advisers; appointment procedure; pay) (Part 1) 1979 Apr 27 1980 May 2 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 235
PREM19/156 Commonwealth (Five Power Defence Arrangements: joint exercises; proposal from Prime Minister of Australia) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 11 1980 Oct 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 27
PREM19/341 Rhodesia (Oil sanctions against Rhodesia; follow-up to Bingham Report; possible further review; proceedings by Lonrho against Shell and BP) 1979 May 17 1980 Sep 22 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 129
PREM19/217 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 5) 1980 May 1 1980 Jul 16 2010 Dec 30 Secret 209
PREM19/312 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation (BSC); BSC finances and future shape under new chairman; problems of private sector steel firms) (Part 7) 1980 Sep 12 1980 Nov 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 162
PREM19/186 Economic policy (Pay comparability and the future of the Standing Commission (Clegg Commission); Government response) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1979 Sep 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 193
PREM19/281 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 7) 1980 Jun 5 1980 Aug 5 2010 Dec 30 1 Secret 156
PREM19/380 Tunisia (Call on Prime Minister by Habib Bourguiba, son of Tunisian President, March 1980) 1980 Feb 29 1980 Mar 21 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 18
PREM19/249 Government Machinery (Future of Civil Service Department; integration with the Treasury; Select Committee consideration) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 14 1980 Jul 4 2010 Dec 30 Secret 215
PREM19/157 Cyprus (Prime Minister’s meeting with Alecos Michaelides, President of Cyprus House of Representatives, November 1980) 1980 Mar 12 1980 Nov 26 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 37
PREM19/342 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 12) 1979 Dec 21 1980 Jan 11 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 265
PREM19/218 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 6) 1980 Jul 18 1980 Nov 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 207

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