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 ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/205 Energy (Energy Policy) (Part 5) 1980 May 9 1980 Dec 10 2010 Dec 30 Secret 218
PREM19/298 Morocco (Visit to UK by former Prime Minister, Ahmed Osman, March 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 Feb 13 1980 Mar 12 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 20
PREM19/173 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 6) 1980 Jul 1 1980 Sep 3 2010 Dec 30 Secret 215
PREM19/266 Industrial policy (Prime Minister’s meetings with Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on economic strategy) (Part 1) 1979 May 29 1980 Sep 15 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 235
PREM19/145 Civil Service (Proposal to close Public Record Office research room in Chancery Lane) 1980 Feb 14 1980 Apr 22 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 23
PREM19/365 Social Services (Rayner study on arrangements for paying social security benefits) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 22 1980 Sep 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 282
PREM19/238 Foreign Policy (East/West relations; Western strategy in wake of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 5 1980 May 30 2010 Dec 30 Top Secret 192
PREM19/328 Parliament (Top Salaries Review Body report on Parliamentary pay) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 8 1980 Feb 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 243
PREM19/206 Energy (Future of British National Oil Corporation (BNOC); proposed sale of British Petroleum (BP) assets; Petroleum and Submarine Pipeline Bill) (Part 3) 1979 Dec 27 1980 Jun 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 198
PREM19/299 National Health (Fluoridation of water supplies; correspondence with Sir Emmanuel Kaye) 1979 Aug 9 1980 Mar 27 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 69
PREM19/174 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 7) 1980 Sep 19 1980 Dec 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 377
PREM19/267 Industrial policy (Consultations with Trades Union Congress (TUC) on economic strategy; Prime Minister’s meetings with TUC representatives) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 23 1980 Aug 18 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 266
PREM19/146 Civil Service (Cabinet Office Whitley Council request for meeting, concerning pay, with Prime Minister) 1980 Mar 21 1980 Dec 3 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 18
PREM19/366 Social Services (Taxation of short term benefits, supplementary benefits and strikers' benefits; financial treatment of strikers and their families) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 3 1980 Feb 25 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 101
PREM19/239 France (Prime Minister’s visit to France, September 1980: Franco-British Conference at Bordeaux) 1979 Oct 9 1980 Oct 6 2010 Dec 30 Secret 321

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