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 release Any docs withheld?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/103 Prime Minister (Meeting with British Council of Churches Oct 1979) 1979 May 9 1979 Oct 17 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 41
PREM19/1622 Security (Judgement by European Court of Human Rights on Malone case: proposed legislation on interception of communications) 1980 Sep 29 1984 Jul 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1426 China (Visit to UK by Chinese Prime Minister, Zhao Ziyang, June 1985: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1982 Jul 19 1985 Jun 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1090 National health (National Health Service (NHS) pay dispute; pay determination process in NHS) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 7 1983 Aug 18 2013 Aug 1 Secret 193
PREM19/2977 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 47) 1990 Jul 2 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/606 Zimbabwe (Internal situation; aid; relations with South Africa) 1980 Apr 17 1981 Nov 2 2011 Dec 30 Secret 258
PREM19/1943 Security (Security of economic statistics) 1979 Jun 5 1986 Aug 20 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/23 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 6) 1979 Oct 24 1979 Nov 19 2009 Dec 30 Secret 292
PREM19/1537 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland: privatisation of UniPart) (Part 8) 1984 Apr 2 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 308
PREM19/1346 Posts and telecommunications (Telephone rental and standing charges) 1982 Mar 12 1983 May 12 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1008 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Williamsburg) (Part 12) 1983 Apr 25 1983 May 26 2013 Aug 1 Secret 325
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
PREM19/2163 European Policy (Prime Minister's meetings and correspondence with Sir James Scott-Hopkins, leader of European Democratic Group (EDG) in European Parliament: meetings with Conservative members of EDG) 1979 Jul 1 1987 Feb 11 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/526 Manpower (Measures against unemployment; youth training; Young Workers Scheme; unemployment and early retirement) (Part 5) 1981 Jul 13 1981 Oct 31 2011 Dec 30 Secret 249
PREM19/2802 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's term of office: Mrs Thatcher's 10th anniversary as Prime Minister) 1987 Sep 9 1989 May 3 2016 Dec 30

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