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
PREM19/135 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 6 1980 Jan 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 317
PREM19/350 Rhodesia (Constitutional Conference, Lancaster House, London, Sept-Dec 1979: proceedings & conference papers, CC (79) 41-79) 1979 Oct 27 1979 Nov 16 2010 Dec 30 Restricted 324
PREM19/228 European Policy (Prime Minister’s meetings with President of European Commission, Roy Jenkins) 1979 May 10 1980 Nov 4 2010 Dec 30 Secret 192
PREM19/321 Parliament (Defence Committee inquiry into Polaris successor systems) 1980 May 9 1980 Oct 17 2010 Dec 30 Top Secret 14
PREM19/196 Economic policy (Liability to tax of UK resident beneficiaries of overseas trusts: the Vestey case, November 1979) 1980 Oct 7 1980 Nov 21 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 20
PREM19/289 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 2) 1979 Nov 15 1980 Feb 26 2010 Dec 30 Secret 110
PREM19/164 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 7) 1980 Jan 25 1980 Oct 16 2010 Dec 30 Secret 178
PREM19/257 India (Call on Prime Minister by Swraj Paul, Vice Chairman, Indo/British Association, July 1980; Indo-British exchange conference) 1980 Jun 18 1980 Jul 16 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 26
PREM19/136 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 21 1980 Feb 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 257
PREM19/351 Rhodesia (Constitutional Conference, Lancaster House, London, Sept-Dec 1979: proceedings & conference papers, CC (79) 80-105) 1979 Nov 19 1979 Dec 13 2010 Dec 30 Restricted 235
PREM19/229 European Policy (EEC food exports to Soviet Union; sales of subsidised butter) 1979 Sep 3 1980 Jul 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 80
PREM19/322 Parliament (House of Commons procedure; reorganization of Select Committees; Departmental Select Committees) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1980 Jan 28 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 189
PREM19/197 Economic policy (Seminar with academic economists, 13 July 1980) 1980 May 9 1980 Jul 15 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 34
PREM19/290 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 28 1980 Sep 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 205
PREM19/165 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 8) 1980 Jan 29 1980 Feb 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 176

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