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
PREM19/373 Spain (EEC fishing licences for Spanish fishermen) 1980 Jan 28 1980 Feb 8 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 18
PREM19/150 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 4) 1980 May 8 1980 Jul 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 222
PREM19/335 Prime Minister (Visits to government departments and regional visits) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 27 1980 Jan 11 2010 Dec 30 Secret 240
PREM19/211 Energy (Burgoyne Committee report on offshore safety; transfer of responsibility) 1980 Mar 27 1980 Oct 29 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 24
PREM19/306 Nationalised Industries (Privatisation) (Part 2) 1980 Feb 21 1980 Oct 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 150
PREM19/180 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 6) 1980 Oct 31 1980 Nov 26 2010 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/275 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; negotiations for release of hostages; sanctions) Part 5 1980 Feb 1 1980 Apr 8 2010 Dec 30 Secret 203
PREM19/374 Sport (UK participation in Moscow Olympic Games following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 8 1980 Mar 6 2010 Dec 30 Secret 251
PREM19/243 Government Machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the scrutiny programme) (Part 5) 1980 Feb 14 1980 May 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 244
PREM19/151 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 5) 1980 Aug 5 1980 Sep 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 167
PREM19/336 Prime Minister (Meeting with delegation from British Chamber of Commerce on trade union immunities) 1980 Apr 24 1980 Jun 5 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 34
PREM19/212 Defence (Arms control) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 15 2010 Dec 30 1 Top Secret 199
PREM19/307 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; contingency planning) (Part 2) 1979 Nov 28 1980 Jan 7 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 258
PREM19/181 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; possible industrial disputes; the pay round) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 19 1980 Jun 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 164
PREM19/276 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; US mission to release hostages; sanctions) (Part 6) 1980 Apr 9 1980 Apr 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 244

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