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
PREM19/245 Government Machinery (Review of non-departmental public bodies (quangos): report by Sir Leo Pliatzky) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 23 1980 Jan 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 250
PREM19/91 Local government (Remuneration of local councillors) 1979 Jul 23 1979 Nov 19 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 12
PREM19/32 Economic policy (Privatization) (Part 2) 1979 Jul 23 1979 Dec 19 2009 Dec 30 Secret 115
PREM19/208 Energy (Coking coal: National Coal Board grant; British Steel Corporation imports) 1979 Jul 23 1980 Sep 8 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 52
PREM19/272 Information and Publicity (Public attitudes on pay determination; presentation of Government’s economic policy) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 23 1980 Jun 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 173
PREM19/937 Transport (Fixed Channel Link (Channel Tunnel); economic considerations; discussions with French) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 24 1982 Feb 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 207
PREM19/1051 Home affairs (Contingency arrangements for dealing with a serious Thames flood) 1979 Jul 25 1983 Dec 22 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 41
PREM19/2938 Defence (Service exercises to test the transition to war and home defence procedures: Ministerial participation in NATO exercises) 1979 Jul 25 1990 Nov 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2367 Nicaragua (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 26 1987 Feb 25 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/486 Immigration (The Nationality Bill) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 26 1981 Oct 29 2011 Dec 30 Secret 150
PREM19/2887 Transport (Consultative paper on the Government's response to the Blennerhassett Committee's recommendations on drinking and driving: White Paper on road safety) 1979 Jul 26 1989 Nov 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/99 Pakistan (Sale of cargo ships to Pakistan by British Shipbuilders) 1979 Jul 27 1979 Aug 23 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 15
PREM19/577 Regional policy (Inner city policy: creation of urban development corporations to assist in regeneration of Liverpool and London Docklands) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 30 1981 Aug 7 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 170
PREM19/74 Industrial policy (Employee stock ownership - correspondence with US Senator) 1979 Jul 31 1979 Sep 3 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 16
PREM19/10 Commonwealth (Lusaka CHOGM - bilaterals) 1979 Jul 31 1979 Aug 17 2009 Dec 30 2 Confidential 56

Pages