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 ascending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2528 South Africa (Report of the Erasmus Commission on alleged irregularities in the South African Department of Information; resignation of President John Vorster; European Community Erasmus programme (student exchange programme)) 1979 Jun 6 1987 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2781 National Health (John Corrie MP's Bill on Abortion (1979): David Alton's Abortion Bill (1988); abortion policy) 1979 Jun 5 1989 Feb 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1943 Security (Security of economic statistics) 1979 Jun 5 1986 Aug 20 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1818 Italy (Anglo-Italian relations: Italian political scene; British contribution to Italian earthquake relief, 1980-1981) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 5 1986 Nov 6 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 387
PREM19/789 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 5 1982 Sep 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 297
PREM19/31 Economic policy (Privatization) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 4 1979 Jul 20 2009 Dec 30 Secret 189
PREM19/313 Nationalised Industries (Water industry pay; contingency planning) (Part 7) 1979 Jun 4 1980 Nov 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 55
PREM19/63 Government machinery (Ministerial responsibility for population matters) 1979 Jun 1 1979 Jun 4 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 4
PREM19/97 Nationalized industries (Steel) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 1 1979 Nov 12 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 133
PREM19/98 Nationalized industries (British Rail - cutback in fuel supplies) 1979 Jun 1 1979 Jun 7 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 15
PREM19/19 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 1 1979 Jul 16 2009 Dec 30 Secret 206
PREM19/2058 Defence (Policy on biological and chemical weapons) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 1 1988 Dec 23 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/87 Italy (Italian PM’s visits to UK) (?Part 1) [possible filing error - Part 2 of this file has no clear Part 1] 1979 Jun 1 1979 Jul 16 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 104
PREM19/512 Jordan (Visits to UK by King Hussein: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 1 1981 Nov 18 2011 Dec 30 1
PREM19/107 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 1 1979 Jul 4 2009 Dec 30 Secret 382

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