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 filesort descending File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/376 Sport (UK participation in Moscow Olympic Games following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) (Part 3) 1980 May 9 1980 Jul 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 142
PREM19/377 Sport (Sporting relations with South Africa) 1979 Aug 30 1980 Feb 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 173
PREM19/378 Trade (Visit by David Howell, Secretary of State for Energy, to Mexico and Venezuela, September 1980; proposed seminar) 1980 Oct 24 1980 Dec 9 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 21
PREM19/379 Trade (United States synthetic fibre exports to UK; problems of the UK clothing and textile industry) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 12 1980 Jun 27 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 165
PREM19/380 Tunisia (Call on Prime Minister by Habib Bourguiba, son of Tunisian President, March 1980) 1980 Feb 29 1980 Mar 21 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 18
PREM19/381 USA (Visit to UK by Dr Harold Brown, US Secretary of Defense, June 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 May 28 1980 Aug 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 74
PREM19/382 USA (Visit to UK by Major General George J Keegan Jr, US Air Force (retired), March 1980: call on Prime Minister) 1980 Feb 20 1980 Jun 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 27
PREM19/383 USA (Visits to UK by Cyrus Vance, US Secretary of State: meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 May 14 1980 Feb 22 2010 Dec 30 Secret 173
PREM19/384 Yemen Arab Republic (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Abdul Aziz Abdul Ghani, November 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1979 Aug 13 1980 Jan 4 2010 Dec 30 Secret 69
PREM19/385 Ireland (Prime Minister’s visit to Northern Ireland, December 1979) 1979 Aug 27 1980 Jan 16 2010 Dec 30 Top Secret 137
PREM19/386 Aerospace (British Aerospace’s bid for Arab Communications Satellite) 1981 Apr 7 1981 May 18 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 29
PREM19/387 Afghanistan (Internal Situation) (Part 5) 1980 Apr 10 1981 Sep 14 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 333
PREM19/388 Agriculture (Proposed energy subsidies to horticulture and fisheries industries to combat 'unfair' foreign competition) 1980 Mar 21 1981 Apr 28 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 21
PREM19/389 Agriculture (Liquid milk prices) 1979 May 16 1981 Mar 11 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 168
PREM19/390 Arts and amenities (Export licence for Leicester Codex by Leonardo da Vinci, following purchase by Dr Armand Hammer) 1980 Oct 22 1981 Feb 11 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 39

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