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 Endssort descending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1389 Security (Distribution of intelligence reports and assessments) 1979 May 14 1984 Nov 14 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/383 USA (Visits to UK by Cyrus Vance, US Secretary of State: meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 May 14 1980 Feb 22 2010 Dec 30 Secret 173
PREM19/2228 Home Affairs (Women's National Commission) (Part 1) 1979 May 14 1988 Jan 21 2016 Jul 21 17
PREM19/2264 Iran (The Shah of Iran's wish to settle in the UK: health and future of the Shah) 1979 May 14 1988 Apr 21 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2192 Government Machinery (Ministerial responsibility for the arts and libraries) 1979 May 14 1987 Jul 16 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1587 New Zealand (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers Robert Muldoon and David Lange) (Part 1) 1979 May 14 1985 Mar 4 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 283
PREM19/1588 New Zealand (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers Robert Muldoon and David Lange: briefs) (Part 1 annex) 1979 May 14 1985 Mar 4 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/255 Hong Kong (UK trade with China; power projects in Hong Kong involving UK companies) (Part 1) 1979 May 14 1980 Dec 31 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 142
PREM19/581 Royal family (Visits to Northern Ireland by Princess Alexandra, June 1979 and June 1981) 1979 May 14 1981 May 29 2011 Dec 30 3 Secret 9
PREM19/941 USA (Economic situation in the United States) (Part 1) 1979 May 15 1981 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 275
PREM19/333 Post and Telecommunications (Postal tariff increases; industrial dispute; finances; industrial democracy. Future of the Post Office: British Telecommunications (BT); telecommunications monopoly; postal monopoly) (Part 1) 1979 May 15 1980 Jul 4 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 258
PREM19/936 Transport (Armitage Report on Lorries, People and the Environment; draft White Paper) (Part 1) 1979 May 15 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 197
PREM19/78 Iran (Jewish community - correspondence with President Carter) 1979 May 15 1979 May 24 2009 Dec 30 Secret 23
PREM19/30 Economic policy (National Economic Development Council) (NEDC) (Part 1) 1979 May 15 1979 Dec 18 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 219
PREM19/15 Defence (Modernisation of Theatre Nuclear Forces)(Part 1) 1979 May 16 1979 Nov 29 2009-12-30 Secret 226

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